The Leafs can clinch a playoff spot with a win in Dallas, but they'll need some help from the Canes

Published April 7, 2022 at 1:12 PM
BY BEN HODGSON
Its crazy to think that not long ago, the Leafs were mired in a slump that saw them miss the playoffs in 10 out of 11 seasons. The departure of Mats Sundin and the introduction of the oppressive salary cap sent the Leafs into a spiral that finally ended with the drafting of William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. Since the 2016 season, the Leafs haven't missed the playoffs, excluding the confusing play-in round of the 2020 playoffs. Unfortunately, making the playoffs is as far as they've gotten, though they're looking to change that.

Its no secret that Leafs fans are desperate for playoff success. After 5 straight years without winning a round, this year may be the last chance for this core before changes happen in player personnel or even management. But to win in the playoffs, they first have to make the playoffs. Don't worry. It's about as close to a lock as you an get.

The Leafs have an opportunity to punch their ticket with plenty of games to spare. First they need a win against the Dallas Stars, regulation or overtime doesn't matter, they just need the 2 points. Second, they'll need some help from the Carolina Hurricanes. A win for Carolina in regulation over the New York Islanders tomorrow night combined with a Leafs win in Dallas would lock in at least the second wild card slot for the Leafs - though they're likely to finish much higher.

The Leafs currently sit 23 points ahead of the Isles, who have 13 games to play for a possible 26 points if they win out. A Leafs win in Dallas would widen the gap to 25 points, while an Isles regulation loss would limit their possible points to 24, making it impossible for the Islanders to pass the Leafs in the standings.


Some of our readers will remember the last time the Leafs needed an Isles loss to secure a playoff spot. In the last game of the 2006-07 season, the Devils sat Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur in favor of Scott Clemmensen. John Madden scored with 0.7 seconds on the clock to tie the game for the Devils and keep the Leafs playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. Wade Dubielewicz, filling in for an injured Rick DiPietro, managed to backstop the Islanders to a shootout win. In doing so, he eliminated the Leafs.

Luckily, the Leafs won't miss the playoffs if the Islanders happen to win, they'll just need to win one more game, or have the Islanders lose one more. After that, the focus will shift from securing a spot to actually doing something with it. This year's team has a different feel about them - Tuesday night's loss to the Panthers notwithstanding. I'm not saying it's time to plan the parade, but it may be the year the Leafs finally play more than 7 games in the post season.

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