There’s still eight games left — an opportunity for the Toronto Maple Leafs to pull off a stunning collapse for the second straight season — but right now their entry into the playoffs appears to be all-but inevitable.
They have a 99.7% chance of still being around after April 27, according to the Sports Stats Club. Toronto has a five-point lead on the ninth place Winniepg Jets despite the fact that the Leafs have played in two fewer games.
It’s been a long, painful trip since they last participated in a postseason contest on May 4, 2004. They finished two points shy of a playoff berth in 2006 and then one point short in 2007.
The Leafs got the second overall pick in 2009-10 — only not really because they traded it to Boston before the start of that season as part of the Phil Kessel deal. That addition that might have been all that stood in the way of Toronto finishing dead last in the NHL and thus potentially drafting Taylor Hall instead of the Edmonton Oilers.
After their collapse in 2011-12, Leafs minority owner Lawrence Tanenbaum issued an apology, which led to CBC’s Rex Murphy’s scathing response:
And yet that chapter of the Leafs, led principally by youngsters and players that former GM Brian Burke acquired via trades, are on the brink of putting at least one embarrassing streak to an end. Of course, there’s still the issue of Toronto’s over four-decade old Stanley Cup drought…
Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing
The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?
Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.
Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.
A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:
Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”
He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.
Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.
"I don't think the Kings look at Doughty differently…Muzzin to back down from that fight on 1st shift is an embarrassment." – Keith Jones https://t.co/KI9dx8Rirx
For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”