Push for the Playoffs: Leafs try to get back on track

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

It’s been an intriguing last few weeks for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since Mar. 16, they’ve played seven games and have won only two. Although they managed to beat Buffalo and Florida. During this stretch, they’ve lost to the Senators (twice), the Rangers and the Flyers. It’s been ugly.

Even though they’ve failed to clinch a playoff spot, they’re still secure when it comes to their spot in the postseason.

“This week is an important one for us,” Auston Matthews said after Saturday night’s loss to the Sens, per NHL.com. Like I said a couple weeks ago, it’s that time of year, you really need to dial it in, and ramp up individually your play, and as a team, really make sure we’re all on the same page offensively, defensively, in all areas, so we can execute all over the ice and make things easier for one another.”

This final week starts with a visit to Nassau Coliseum in Long Island tonight. As you probably know, Islander fans will make sure the building in rocking all night, as they’ll go after their former captain, John Tavares. And the Isles are battling for seeding, so they still have a lot to play for.

The biggest priority for the Leafs will be getting their in-zone coverage squared away and they need to find a way to get Frederik Andersen back to the way he was earlier this season. It might be a little late to fix their defensive-zone issues, but getting Andersen on track is (hopefully) still possible.

The 29-year-old has one win in his last four games and he’s given up nine goals in his last two outings. If he can’t find his game, taking out the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs will be next to impossible.

The Leafs will play four games over six days to end the season. It’s realistic to expect that Andersen will only suit up in half of those games. Can he figure it out in just two games?

“I think I’ve played more games and felt better [in the past], Andersen said, per Sportsnet. “I think that this year I’ve been banged up a little bit at times, and obviously with the time I missed it’s been different. I don’t really want to compare too much of how I felt.

“Right now the focus is on trying to feel good going into the playoffs.”

Time is ticking.

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Capitals at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
Maple Leafs at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
Lightning at Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET
Avalanche vs. Blues, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN, live stream)
Jets at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Oilers at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET
Flames at Kings, 10 p.m. ET

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
The Capitals will clinch the Metropolitan Division:
• If they defeat the Panthers in any fashion
AND
• Islanders lose to the Maple Leafs in regulation.

Toronto will clinch a playoff berth:
• If they get at least one point against the Islanders.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — Clinched
Capitals — Clinched
Islanders —  Clinched
Maple Leafs — 100 percent
Penguins — 100 percent
Blue Jackets — 93.9 percent
Hurricanes — 77.6 percent
Canadiens — 28.5 percent
Flyers — Eliminated
Panthers — Eliminated
Sabres — Eliminated
Rangers — Eliminated
Devils — Eliminated
Red Wings — Eliminated
Senators — Eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Flames — Clinched
Jets — Clinched
Sharks — Clinched
Predators — Clinched
Blues — Clinched
Golden Knights — Clinched
Stars — 99.7 percent
Avalanche — 77.1 percent
Coyotes — 21.9 percent
Wild — 0.9 percent
Blackhawks — 0.4 percent
Oilers — Eliminated
Canucks — Eliminated
Ducks — Eliminated
Kings — Eliminated

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators — 18.5 percent*
Kings — 13.5 percent
Devils — 11.5 percent
Sabres — 9.5 percent
Red Wings — 8.5 percent
Ducks — 7.5 percent
Rangers — 6.5 percent
Oilers – 6 percent
Canucks — 5 percent
Blackhawks — 3.5 percent
Wild — 3 percent
Panthers — 2.5 percent
Flyers — 2 percent
Coyotes — 1.5 percent
Canadiens — 1 percent
(*COL owns OTT’s 2019 first-round pick)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 122 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 114 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 105 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 101 points
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins — 98 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 51 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 47 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 45 goals
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets — 41 goals

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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