Jonathan Bernier

Playoff bubble watch — Leafs edition


When “bubble watch” last checked in on the Toronto Maple Leafs, last Wednesday, we wrote there was “still a pretty high probability” of making the playoffs.

We can no longer write that.

Because since then, the Leafs have extended their regulation losing streak from two to six and seen their postseason chances fall to 29.2 percent, according to Sports Club Stats.

Amazingly (or maybe not so amazingly considering the team’s recent history of collapses), it was just over two weeks ago, after Toronto beat Los Angeles on Mar. 13, that the Leafs’ chances were at 89.7 percent.

And it doesn’t get easier anytime soon. Tonight, it’s a game in Philadelphia against a Flyers team that’s been one of the best in the NHL since the beginning of February. Saturday, on Hockey Night in Canada, the desperate Detroit Red Wings — one of the four teams, including Toronto, in the hunt for the final two wild-card spots in the East — pay a visit to the ACC.

It’s estimated the Leafs need to gain 11 points out of a possible 16 in order to give themselves a better-than-50/50 shot of making the playoffs. Which is to say, they need to go something like 5-2-1 or 4-1-3 in their final eight games. Maybe they could get away with 5-3-0, or even 4-3-1, but that would be pushing it.

“I don’t think we’re playing that bad,” star winger Phil Kessel argued, per the Globe and Mail. “The past game (a 5-3 loss to St. Louis) we didn’t play well a little bit but we fought back. Obviously we got to play better and find some wins.

“We’re starting games terribly. We’re getting down a couple goals. They’re outplaying us for the first half of the game then all of a sudden we wake up and it’s just too late.”

Related: Phaneuf calls into Toronto radio station, responds to criticism

Video: Kings, Kopitar exploit Edler’s gaffe for OT win vs. Canucks

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Alexander Edler probably feels some serious shame right now.

The Vancouver Canucks defenseman is getting some heat for a bad blunder on what became the Los Angeles Kings’ overtime game-winning goal by Anze Kopitar.

You can see the decisive goal in the video above, which meant a 2-1 overtime victory for the Kings over the Canucks.

Just a (safe for work) sampling of the reactions toward Edler:

Again, those are the more … sanitized reactions.

Jacob Markstrom didn’t get the win despite keeping Vancouver in the game. The big Swede made 38 out of 40 saves, yet that last goal will burn.

For Los Angeles, it’s another reminder that this team sure is scrappy.

Let’s be honest: it’s better to go late into a game with a lead against the Kings, but a small margin makes for some serious discomfort.

Malkin, Kessel dominate as Pens stump Sharks

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Sometimes an angry Evgeni Malkin means a stray power play or two for his opponents, but it’s usually not the best idea to make him angry.

Giving a player that big and talented extra motivation just seems like a bad idea, right?

Joel Ward experienced that phenomenon on Tuesday, as Malkin responded to a blow from Ward with the goal you can see below.

Malkin scored a goal and two assists while Phil Kessel found the net twice in Pittsburgh’s 5-1 win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

Malkin now has a four-game goal streak going (five goals, three assists). He also has 13 points in his past seven games.

Marc-Andre Fleury deserves plenty of credit, too, as he stopped 33 out of 34 shots and continues to quietly generate some of the best work of his sometimes-polarizing career.

This was a nice way for the Penguins to begin a four-game Western road trip, although they’ll need to wait a while to try to keep it going; their next game comes in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Of course: Ryan Suter wins it for Wild vs. ‘Hawks after those wild quotes

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You know what they say: “What a difference a game makes.”

Even in the 82-game marathon that an NHL regular season is, that can be true.

Ryan Suter admitted he went too far with comments during tough times, yet there he was on Tuesday night, grinning ear-to-ear after scoring the 2-1 goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Heck, people were even joking about things. The healing powers of winning, right?

As of this writing, this win places Minnesota in the last wild card spot, and they’re close to elbowing in on the Chicago Blackhawks (who own a standings point advantage, but have played two more games so far in 2015-16).

Jeremy Roenick labels this 2-1 win as a “team win” for Minnesota, and it showed on that 2-1 goal, as the Wild showed off some picture-perfect passing and a willingness to crash the net for rebounds.

Let’s face it, though; Devan Dubnyk deserves plenty of credit, too.

It won’t be easy in the Central Division, and things may get heated again. Still, this is the sort of win that may just help Minnesota build up some confidence.

Hey look: Flyers reel off three straight wins for first time in 2015-16

Sean Couturier
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When you’re talking about bright sides, most people believe that they boil down to the light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little success in the present while waiting for that bright future, though.

The Flyers are providing at least a burst of sunshine lately, as Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators gives them … (drum roll) their first three-game winning streak of this season.

Joy abounded.

Even in recent darker moments, Philly’s been pretty impressive on offense, so Flyers fans are likely relieved to see a relative offensive outburst.

Sure, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns – Radko Gudas might have gotten himself into some trouble, for instance – yet this is still a nice sign of life for a team expected to finish in the draft lottery.

If that fails … hey, the future may require shades.