Cat herding is notoriously hard, but can the Leafs do it?

As of yesterday, the Leafs have 97 points, six games left and an RW of 32. The Panthers have 102 points, four games left and an RW of 39. Since their RW is so high they can't be overtaken by that measure, the Panthers would win a tie. To take second place in the Atlantic, the Leafs need to have at least one more point than the Panthers.

No Math Method

Some combination of the Leafs getting more points than they do on average and the Panthers getting less has to occur for the Leafs to take second place. You can talk about "games in hand" and head-to-head meetings, strength of schedule or the chance the moon blots out the sun – as if, but that's what has to happen for this dream to come true.

A Bit of Math Method

The Leafs need to get six more points out of the rest of the season than the Panthers do. That's one point more per game the Leafs play than the Panthers get. If the Panthers lose their final four games, then the Leafs need to just win half of theirs. Easy.

More Than a Bit of Math

The Panthers got to 102 points with a Points % of .654. Over four games, that's 5 points. Note: I did this totally wrong the first time.

The Leafs got to 97 points with a Points % of .638. Over six games, that's 7.7 points. Have to call that eight.

That's not going to do it, now is it?

Okay, let's say the Leafs beat the Panthers when they play each other next week. Now the Panthers have three games left, are still at 102, but the Leafs have five games and are at 99. Redoing the calculation then if, other than in that game, both teams get points by their season average, the Panthers would get four and the Leafs would get six. Panthers - 106, Leafs - 105.

That's not going to do it.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's actually possible for the Leafs to lose to the Panthers and still take second place. It's just really, really improbable, and requires the Panthers to give it to the Leafs by losing repeatedly. The Panthers have lost four games in a row twice this season, but never five, and they lost their most recent game.

The Bright Side

In small sets of games, like four or six, there is no reason to actually expect teams to perform at their average. Teams overperform, underperform, muddle along, get beat by a hot goalie, hit someone who can't stop a beachball or just are so exhausted by the crappy schedule they don't have it.

You can't guess by any means what will happen. A really good probability model still isn't a true picture of the future.

It totally can happen.

It just likely won't.