Now that the Leafs have played game 28, the time is right for a quick look at the standings. This time, I took the fourth place team by points percentage, the Montreal Canadiens, and used their points percentage as the benchmark. You need to be that good to make the playoffs in the North, at least for now. It works out to 67 points or so, so I used that and this is the rate each team has to get points to get to 67:
Points % to get to 67 points in the North
|Team||GP||Games Remaining||P%||P% to get to .596|
At this point in the season, with 15 teams over .600, we have to recognize that doing that for the second half of the season is possible for almost any team. Not the Red Wings or the Senators, but most of them. Okay, definitely not Buffalo.
With that in mind, we can’t call Calgary out, although they need a really fast turnaround, and will know by the deadline if they have a hope. But if they aren’t out, the other four aren’t securely in. Some more so than others.
The Canadiens, rebounding from the coaching change, and getting by on loser points for now, need to be who they’ve been to finish in a likely fourth place. With 30 games remaining, they have ample room to move up if they get a little luck at both nets.
The Oilers seem highly unlikely to suddenly play below .600 for 27 games, but they could have injury-induced problems. Because they score so much, it’s really difficult for them to get too deep in the doldrums.
The Jets are playing a higher risk game because they rely so much on the goalie and a very small number of forwards. That said, they’ve won a lot, and would need a loss of that goalie to flame out now.
And that brings me to the Leafs. I think a playoff spot is locked up here. Speaking of scoring so much, the Leafs don’t need good goaltending to play at .500 any more than the Oilers do, so no matter what happens there, they’re in. The tinkering and adjusting, the luck and the injuries, and most especially the goaltending will just decide where in the top four they finish.
The Bruins finished last year’s short season of 70 games with a percentage of .714, and Tampa had a remarkable .780 in the full season in 2018-2019. When you’re at the top, it’s more likely you’ll fall, at least a little, but there’s no reason that must happen. Ottawa might win a few more too, that’s most likely for them, but they might get worse!
The next 28 games matter for the Leafs, and the job is clear — hold onto first place.