It may be a cliché, but it’s true: every point counts in the run to the playoffs.
This is especially true against teams that are chasing you in the standings. If you’re willing to cede precious points, these teams will gladly take them. It’s not difficult to understand.
That’s why the inability of the Toronto Maple Leafs to secure a single point against the Columbus Blue Jackets this season might eventually hurt them down the stretch.
Toronto currently sits fifth overall in the Eastern Conference and enjoys a four-point margin of cushion on the first Wild Card spot. Both the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals are within four points of everyone’s favourite team, but the Leafs have been able to force some distance between themselves and these two teams by (so far anyway) splitting their season series against them.
Columbus, on the other hand, sits only five points behind Toronto and here the Leafs have done themselves absolutely no favours. In three contests this season, the Blue Jackets have outscored the Leafs by a combined score of 13-3. That’s simply unacceptable.
The Blue Jackets earned their third and final win of the season against the Leafs last night.
Visiting the Air Canada for the second time this season, they squeaked out a 2-1 win over the home team. It wasn’t Toronto’s best effort, and if it wasn’t for the heroics of the largely forgotten James Reimer, the Blue Jackets could very well have skated themselves to another blowout north of the border (they beat Toronto 6-0 in their first meeting at the ACC).
These are valuable points that the Leafs squandered, and they’ll be difficult to replace. The Leafs find themselves playing the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings – all teams that fall within the playoff picture right now, and all teams that are arguably better than Toronto – over their next five games. Adding to challenge, only one of these games will be played at home: the Flyers visit town on Saturday.
If there’s any good news to emerge from yesterday’s loss, however, it concerns the solid play of Reimer. He may have earned himself another start and a second look in Toronto.
We’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case.
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