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Penguins deal big blow to Leafs’ postseason dreams

Mar 7, 2012, 11:09 PM EDT

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Pascal Dupuis, Matt Niskanen, Steve Sullivan AP

The reports of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff death have been greatly exaggerated; then again, maybe they’ve just been premature.

Toronto has been reasonably competitive with Randy Carlyle in charge, yet two one-goal losses to two strong contenders has the team in a bad spot – again. After dropping a 5-4 defeat to the Boston Bruins last night, the Maple Leafs couldn’t hold onto a third period lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who took their seventh consecutive victory via a 3-2 regulation triumph.

The Buds were up 2-1 going into the final frame but couldn’t close out Pittsburgh to salvage a tough back-to-back set. Brian Compton points out that the Maple Leafs were 20-0-1 when they had a third period lead before tonight.

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Dwindling odds

The New York Rangers are struggling – a bit – so it’s not crazy for Pittsburgh to think big amid this streak. Still, the bigger impact obviously seems to be on Toronto’s side.

Buffalo climbed into a legitimate place in the run with its win, so things look doubly dim for the playoff-starved Leafs. Here’s Sports Club Stats’ take on who has the best chance to make the postseason:

Winnipeg: 46.7 percent chance
———
Washington: 41 percent chance
Buffalo: 12.3 percent chance
Tampa Bay: 12.3 percent chance
Toronto: 8.3 percent chance

To give you a little more perspective on how  much of a bummer Wednesday has been for the Buds, chew on this. Buffalo’s odds went up 3.7 percent while Toronto’s chances dropped by 4.7 percent with that four-point swing.

***

Believe it or not, the Maple Leafs aren’t totally out of it. Some might argue that they even have some positives to build on. It just so happens that their chances keep declining and those moral victories keep mattering less and less. “Almost” probably doesn’t matter much to fans who haven’t seen Toronto in the playoffs since the lockout, after all.

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