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Playoff bubble watch — Leafs edition

Mar 28, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

Jonathan Bernier AP

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

  1. sweetzinger - Mar 28, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Kessel needs to wakeup.

    The Leafs are outplayed almost every single game. If it wasn’t for Bernier/sometimes Reimer, the Leafs would be the worst team in the league.

    • sjsblitz - Mar 28, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      Worse defensive team in the league……and you blame a forward

      • kfraser91 - Mar 28, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        not only that but you blame their BEST forward! Phil is having a great year…thats like blaming Datsuyk/Zetterberg if the wings miss the playoffs. (or i guess Nyquist since everyone else is hurt lol)

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        I think he’s referring to Kessel’s less-than-convincing optimism and assessment of their recent play. You don’t lose six straight if you’re not “playing that bad.”

        That game last Saturday against MTL was one of the biggest of the year, yet they came out in front of their home crowd with zero jump in their game and it was one of the sloppiest of the year….and MTL wasn’t much better, so if the Leafs were really not “playing that bad” they would’ve won that one easily.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        1943: I agree with Kessel. Overall, the Leafs aren’t playing that badly. They’ve lost only once this month by more than 2 goals. But of course, not playing too badly simply isn’t good enough to get a team into the playoffs. If they are unable to start playing really well, immediately, they’ll be watching the first round on TV like most of their fans.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:05 PM

        “not playing that bad” doesn’t mean “playing good”

        Kessel is right, the Leafs aren’t playing as bad as some people are making it out to be. The losing is obviously an issue, but they’ve been in every game in this 6 game losing streak.

        Wings, Habs, Devils were all 1 goal games. Blues and Caps were 1 goal games with empty netters making them 2 goal games. Tampa, the most lop-sided loss of the six, was just a 2 goal game too. People are making it out to be like the Leafs are getting absolutely killed every game, when it’s just not true.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2014 at 8:57 PM

        @Lupy Nazty Philthy

        I think the scores are misleading. They haven’t really been in these games until they’ve been a couple of goals down and chasing most of the game. Playing from behind and making the score look close means they’ve been mediocre (if you don’t want to call them downright lousy).

  2. beergold - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Flyers should get 50 – 60 shots tonight….if Bernier doesn’t turn into Jesus before game time don’t expect any miracles from TO.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      I wouldn’t count on that. God hates the Leafs…and the Yankees (except they have Satan on their payroll). That’s just an Ironclad Law of Sport.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        God doesn’t hate the Leafs.

        First clothes He ever gave Adam and Eve were Leaf sweaters 😉

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2014 at 8:51 PM

        So you’re saying he sent Harold Ballard just to test us?

  3. slaugin - Mar 28, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    Forwards are a big part of team defense not just the 2 blue liners. Kessel is a very dangerous Offensive weapon but his defense leaves a lot to be desired

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:12 PM

      Kessel’s so not the problem.

      Phaneuf can barely pass the puck out of the Leafs zone without turning it over and giving up lousy goals. That’s not Kessel’s fault, but it shows up on Kessel’s +/- just for being on the same ice as Dion. Look at his stats in Boston… when he was younger and worse defensively, but had a very good defense backing him up. Night and Day between the backup he gets with Phaneuf back there.

      You shouldn’t need to backcheck when your own dman has the puck. You Kessel haters expect miracles from the guy.

      • bsaures - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:02 PM

        Kessel himself isnt the problem its the situation they are using him in that is the problem. The time with the bruins when his +- was better as you pointed was because he was playing 4-5 mins less per night on a 2-3rd line with no defensive responsibilities. That is the role he needs in order to be as effective a player for the team. He doesnt have the stamina or the defensive awareness to play the defensive side of the game against other teams best.

  4. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    If they make the playoffs I’ll be surprised.

    If Kessel starts another hot streak and Bernier plays out of his mind for the last 8 games… maybe they can sneak back in. Not very likely but here’s hoping.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1815)
  2. P. Kane (1290)
  3. P. Datsyuk (1273)
  4. M. Richards (1124)
  5. M. Giordano (1113)