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.
No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.
Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.
They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.
On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.
Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.
Perhaps some of that has to do with health?
Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.
The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.
“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”
He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.
You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.
Here are the handy links for the two contests.
First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.
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After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.
Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.
“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”
Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.
Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.
Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.
Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer