This past season has seemed like an exercise in separating Leafs fans’ emotions from reality. The Leafs didn’t get John Tavares and then roll over every opponent. That was Tampa, inconveniently located in the same division and blessed with a boatload of luck in shooting, shootouts and the ability to win in front of a bad backup layered on top of their talent.
The Leafs didn’t limp along without half their team, getting lucky on one-goal games and then going on a well-timed streak near the end of the season. That was Boston, who can spin a tale of grit and heart and iron-clad systems because there’s no such thing as luck. They deserve to be ahead of the Leafs with one more ROW. And the hot season by their backup was sign of foresight, not striking it lucky. You can plan these things.
The seventh-place Leafs are bad. Their 100 points, the same as Nashville who won their division, is a bad result, and never mind that the Leafs have hit the 100 points or better mark twice in a row now for the first time ever. Ever. In over a century. The Leafs are bad. Maybe it’s emotional hedging. And if it is, if it helps to imagine the worst, so something other than disaster is a pleasant surprise, go for it. But it isn’t very realistic.
Realism is painful.
#Leafs will be slight underdogs vs #NHLBruins https://t.co/Xm8baqY1yg pic.twitter.com/vQtsrakOFu— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) April 7, 2019
There is a ‘what might have been’ though. I spoke briefly to Moneypuck’s creator a few weeks ago and asked about how home-ice advantage fits in. It’s about 2 percentage points difference on a game. So, you can imagine that home ice for the Leafs, which needed seven more points on the season, would have tipped the scale in their favour. But perhaps we imagine that tipping as too dramatic.
It turns out that if you account for how the home team gets their advantage early it's slightly more than that: https://t.co/u3efHK3lRH— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 7, 2019
The question is, looking back, how much push do you make to win that tiny advantage? And is it outweighed in the Leafs case this season, simply by resting Jake Gardiner as long as possible? A team doesn’t actually control how many points they get, anyway, not directly. So here we are.
If you follow along in Micah McCurdy’s conversations about this concept on Twitter you’ll find a fellow asserting firmly that the Leafs/Boston series is not a coin flip. Not really. Not in reality. And by reality, of course, he means how he feels. Because the Leafs are bad, that’s virtually understood by all now.
Perhaps the probabilities for the other series are closer to the reality you feel like you live in, so have a look at the big wheel of hope/doom:
#StanleyCup chances going into the playoffs. #TBLightning favourites followed by #SJSharks , #stlblues, and #VegasBorn https://t.co/Xm8baqY1yg pic.twitter.com/E32czyrS4k— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) April 7, 2019
Micah McCurdy’s latest cup chances model from before last night has the Leafs/Boston series at 49%/51% too.
Okay, so the probabilities say 49% for the Leafs. What does your gut say? How far apart are you?
How far away is your gut feeling from 49%?
|+10 percentage points or 59% for the Leafs||87|
|+5 percentage points||69|
|+2 percentage points||102|
|Right on 49/51||230|
|-2 percentage points||71|
|-5 percentage points||117|
|-10 percentage points or 61% for the Bruins||308|