As of Wednesday morning, the Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting two points back of a playoff spot no matter how you look at it.
They’re two points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the final wild card spot, and two points back of the Florida Panthers for the final divisional spot. At the 50 game mark, they have 32 games left to make up that ground, carve out a playoff spot, and hold onto it down the stretch.
Relevant: What it will take to get the Maple Leafs back in a playoff spot
They had a good first game out of their bye week, and now have the same amount of games played (maybe one more still) than the other teams around them in the standings. If you look at their next 10 games, you can see they have a good chance to make up some ground:
- Dallas Stars (road)
- Ottawa Senators (home)
- Florida Panthers (home)
- New York Rangers (road)
- Anaheim Ducks (home)
- Montreal Canadiens (road)**
- Arizona Coyotes (home)
- Dallas Stars (home)
- Ottawa Senators (road)
- Buffalo Sabres (road)**
** = SEGABABA
Six of those ten games are against teams behind them in the standings. One is against the Panthers, the team the Leafs are chasing, on home ice. Two of them are on the second half of a back to back against teams who will be rested, but are generally underperforming/bad teams.
What makes these games doubly important is what their schedule looks like in the NEXT ten games after that:
- Pittsburgh Penguins (road)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (home)
- Carolina Hurricanes (home)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (road)
- Florida Panthers (road)
- Vancouver Canucks (home)
- San Jose Sharks (road)
- Los Angeles Kings (road)
- Anaheim Ducks (road)**
- Tampa Bay Lightning (home)
That’s six straight games against other playoff teams, including some powerhouses, and three games against divisional rivals ahead of them in the standings. It’s also the dreaded California road trip, with three games in four nights — thankfully all the California teams seem to suck this year.
Over/under on how many games until we start hearing “must win game” from Sportsnet and TSN? I’m giving it until the third game when they play Florida.
The Leafs will have their first home game of this stretch on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, and it should be a good one. The Sens always (annoyingly) play us tough, and the Leafs are at the point where they can’t afford to give up points against an inferior team. If you want to get tickets to it at the Scotiabank Arena, there are tickets available via StubHub.
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ONTO THE LINKS
Have the Leafs wrapped Kasperi Kapanen in bubble wrap for the duration? | by Katya. Spoiler: he was already back in the practice lineup yesterday, and will likely play.
Looking at the Maple Leafs back half schedule | by elseldo
Prospect Breakdown: Nicholas Abruzzese | a pretty great look at a relatively unknown Leafs prospect by a new Leafs blog I hadn’t heard of until I saw this.
Analyzing Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Options: Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks | topical article by Bill Comeau at MLHS
Jake Muzzin wants to stay in Toronto and the Leafs should want him back too | by Cam Lewis at TLN
Now I’m not saying that loyal PPP readers should flood Mirtle with their most ridiculous trade ideas you can conceive of that would make even hfboards cry, but I’m not NOT saying that either.
Seth Jones for Kasperi Kapanen, Timothy Liljegren and a 2022 first?— The Athletic Toronto (@TheAthleticTO) January 28, 2020
William Nylander for Seth Jones, straight up?
Submit your proposals now for @mirtle's upcoming All Your Maple Leafs Trade Ideas Are Bad mailbag ⬇️https://t.co/6Ga9AdSiRz
AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD
Insider Trading: Jets looking to add top-four defenceman | by TSN’s Insider Trading Panel
The Penguins just signed Mark Donk to an extension.
PIT announces extension for Marcus Pettersson. Five years, AAV just over $4M— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 28, 2020
I want whatever Eddie was drinking before he took that mugshot.
Bowling Green Daily News says that Ed Belfour was arrested for "3rd-degree criminal mischief and alcohol intoxication in a public place." No details on the arrest, hence no word if there was another billion dollar negotiation with the cops. (s/t @JMRPH17)https://t.co/TzxxvR5Uic— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 28, 2020
When the Senators are playing the Sabres, you expect such elite skill and playmaking to be on display.
BEST PASS EVER from Ottawa's Ron Hainsey! #Sabres50 | @BuffaloSabres pic.twitter.com/y3MQZBjaT0— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) January 29, 2020
Apparently the NHL is looking to play some games in Russia, because why not?
Looking into reports the NHL was considering games in Russia in 2020-21. No comment from the league, but word is it won’t happen next season — although they will continue to explore possibility for 2021-22. Potential teams: STL/WASH. Hope it happens: would be great showcase— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 28, 2020
Also, apparently the AHL is looking to send one team to the Spengler Cup because why not? There’s actually a lot of tweets in that thread about new rules and issues concerning the AHL.
Spengler Cup— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) January 28, 2020
● The initiative is still alive.
● Dave Andrews went to the event in Switzerland last month.
● It would be one team rather than two as was originally envisioned.
● One issue is carving out time in the schedule. A team would probably need close to two weeks.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!