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.”