The reports of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff death have been greatly exaggerated; then again, maybe they’ve just been premature.
Toronto has been reasonably competitive with Randy Carlyle in charge, yet two one-goal losses to two strong contenders has the team in a bad spot – again. After dropping a 5-4 defeat to the Boston Bruins last night, the Maple Leafs couldn’t hold onto a third period lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who took their seventh consecutive victory via a 3-2 regulation triumph.
The Buds were up 2-1 going into the final frame but couldn’t close out Pittsburgh to salvage a tough back-to-back set. Brian Compton points out that the Maple Leafs were 20-0-1 when they had a third period lead before tonight.
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The New York Rangers are struggling – a bit – so it’s not crazy for Pittsburgh to think big amid this streak. Still, the bigger impact obviously seems to be on Toronto’s side.
Buffalo climbed into a legitimate place in the run with its win, so things look doubly dim for the playoff-starved Leafs. Here’s Sports Club Stats’ take on who has the best chance to make the postseason:
Winnipeg: 46.7 percent chance
Washington: 41 percent chance
Buffalo: 12.3 percent chance
Tampa Bay: 12.3 percent chance
Toronto: 8.3 percent chance
To give you a little more perspective on how much of a bummer Wednesday has been for the Buds, chew on this. Buffalo’s odds went up 3.7 percent while Toronto’s chances dropped by 4.7 percent with that four-point swing.
Believe it or not, the Maple Leafs aren’t totally out of it. Some might argue that they even have some positives to build on. It just so happens that their chances keep declining and those moral victories keep mattering less and less. “Almost” probably doesn’t matter much to fans who haven’t seen Toronto in the playoffs since the lockout, after all.
They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.
The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.
In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.
The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.
Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.
The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).
McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.
It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.
Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.
Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.
“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”
Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: