I noted some beat reporters pretending hard their teams are still in it this morning, so I decided to look at the standings and see what is going on outside the stasis field the Leafs are in for third place in the Atlantic.

Who is winning the Presidents' Trophy?

That is a very open question. There is no one dominant team, but right now the Rangers and the Panthers are tied with .691 in Points % and both have 14 games remaining. Ahead by one in points, the Bruins are at .688 and have 13 games left. The Jets and the Canucks are also well able to take this with .679 and .676 respectively and 14 games each to play.

That's about the point where it would require too many teams to lose unexpectedly for any of the teams in the seventh position on down to take it. Not impossible, just improbable.

Who is winning the lottery race?

The real prize of the regular season for many is Macklin Celebrini, and the Sharks have gone on a losing streak lately and taken over first, er, last place. They're at .291 Points % with 15 games left. Chicago is at .316 and only has 14 opportunities to lose. The Ducks are trying hard to lose enough to catch them with .360 and 14 games to play, but I think they've already won too much.

Chicago is trying to tank responsibly. They have players who used to be good surrounding Connor Bedard and they're trying to maintain a structure of a professional team that is just not good enough to win. This is very difficult, and chaos like they have in San Jose can lead to a lot more losses. Unexpectedly trading all your players as you "just now" realize you're dreadful might win out over sober, professional, practiced losing.

There's only 14 games left?

For some there. is. The Oilers and the Leafs have been hosed on the schedule. Edmonton has 17 games left, Toronto 16. Washington, Seattle and Ottawa are also at 16. Everyone else is 13-15 games remaining. There's one month left in the season, and the Leafs have four sets of back-to-back games, the first one starting tomorrow, and they play at an every-other-day pace for this entire 31 days.

The Leafs are bad, though, you can tell because of the low RW

Remember when ROW was the tiebreaker, and the marker by which "real teams" were measured? Anyhow, yes, RW count can indicate team quality. It can also indicate the quality of the other teams played most often. The Jets lead with 38 and then come all the top teams after. The Leafs are unique.

Toronto has 26 RW, and of the eight teams at 25-27 RW, only the Leafs have a positive goal differential. And at +33, it really stands out. If you want to decide the Leafs are the same as Washington because their RW is the same, you can, but it's not a very defensible position.

The Leafs are bad, though, you can tell because they're in third place

By Points %, Toronto is in 10th place overall, with five Western teams ahead of them. As mentioned up above, two of the top teams in the NHL are Boston and Florida. I don't think either of those teams had a goalie ranked last in the NHL for a long stretch of time.

The Leafs are bad, though, you can tell because they blow leads

Did you parachute in from 2021? Regardless, one of the most interesting bits of trivia is that the Leafs only have 19 regulation losses. They're seventh by that measure. They don't actually give up until a few seconds after the horn blows to end the period. It's the most remarkable change in the team that goes unremarked likely because it's not negative.

Okay fine, if the Leafs aren't totally bad, and I'm not saying they aren't, can they catch Boston?

Good heavens, no. You can't make up ten points in 16 games, not in this league.

Who is out then?

Chicago is formally eliminated as are San Jose and Anaheim. Technically everyone else has a chance.

Eastern Conference

Washington and the Islanders are trying to overcome a three point deficit to take third spot in the Metro from Philadelphia. None of these teams are strong, and Washington might have a bit of an edge just in games played and availability of actual goalies. This is too close to call.

The losers of the third place race could take the final wild card spot. Tampa seems permanently camped in the first spot and something would have to go really wrong for them to lose it, but Detroit's grasp on the final place is weak.

The upshot is that Carolina, likely second place finisher in the Metro is getting a very weak first-round opponent. In the Atlantic, Boston and Florida could get Tampa and the Leafs.

Being first in the east this year means a significant difference in first-round matchup – Tampa or some weak team that backed into the playoffs? Carolina is sitting in the luckiest seat of all.

Western Conference

It's too soon to call much in the west. All three teams in the Central are at 91 points. Vancouver is at 92, and has the Pacific sewn up.

Vegas and LA can flip back and forth between third in the Pacific and a wild card spot, but Calgary (one of the pretending teams) is out. So are the Kraken.

St. Louis and Minnesota are trying to be relevant in the Central, but Nashville is too far ahead to catch without something unusual happening – a major injury level of something.

No one is cracking the top three in the central, the order is all that's up for grabs. And it looks like the cut-off to get in is the Vegas/LA .590 Points %.

The Leafs are bad, though, you can tell because they have six more points than Vegas

Yes, indeed, nothing says terrible team like outperforming the Stanley Cup Champions while having the worst goalie in the NHL.

The Leafs are bad, though, you can tell because we all know every single flaw and mistake every player has made, and we don't know any other teams that well

Now you've got it.