Blowouts deflate what’s left of Leafs, Bolts’ playoff dreams

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If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs or Tampa Bay Lightning fan, you’d have to be very optimistic to carry playoff dreams into Monday night. After both teams were absolutely embarrassed, even the biggest dreamers can put those thoughts to bed.

Boston completes the sweep

Toronto can look back at – and Brian Burke might just base his firing upon – an absolutely embarrassing season series against the Boston Bruins. It seemed like whenever the Bruins needed a pick-me-up, they needed only to turn to Toronto, as tonight’s 8-0 thrashing completed a ridiculous sweep:

Oct. 20: Bruins win 6-2.
Nov. 5: Bruins win 7-0.
Nov. 30 and Dec. 3: Bruins win home-and-home set 6-3 and 4-1.
March 6: Maple Leafs actually complete but lose 5-4.
Today: Boston dominates 8-0.

To recap, that’s a 36-10 disadvantage, with two shutouts. (Tim Thomas only needed 13 saves for a goose egg tonight, by the way.)

If you want a more thematic explanation, Milan Lucic’s beating of Mike Komisarek is pretty symbolic, violent and fitting.

Buffalo douses Lightning

The Lightning won’t have the same regret when looking back at their games against the Buffalo Sabres, however. In fact, with Tampa Bay winning the previous three contests in regulation, Buffalo’s 7-3 demolition is more like revenge than the Boston-Toronto situation – which is essentially another ton of dirt kicked in Burke’s face.

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With the Washington Capitals holding on to win 5-3 against the Detroit Red Wings tonight, the Sabres are still behind the eight-ball in a tight three-team race for the last spot in the Eastern Conference. (Winnipeg’s last-minute fumbling loss to the Carolina Hurricanes from Sunday certainly doesn’t hurt matters, though.)

The race for eighth

Speaking of which, here’s what the East’s No. 8 race looks like now:

8. Washington: 80 points, nine games left (37 wins, 35 in regulation/OT)

9. Buffalo (won tonight): 78 points, nine games left (34 wins, 27 in regulation/OT)
10. Winnipeg (lost last night): 76 points, 10 games left (34 wins, 30 in regulation/OT)

The Sabres essentially rotate home and away games until the end of the season, when they face a tough duo of closing road games: at Philadelphia (April 5) and at Boston (April 7). In other words, if Buffalo makes it, they’ll get to the playoffs by earning it.

(Oh, and if you’re into odds, Sports Club Stats gives Washington a 73.2 percent chance to make the playoffs (up 9.9), Winnipeg a 16.1 percent shot (down 5.8) and Buffalo a 15.5 chance – up 2.5.)