As David Bowie and the boys from Queen might say, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves playing under pressure these days.
The Leafs have held a playoff position for the majority of the season and that remains true today. However, their grip on that position is beginning to unravel at the worst possible time.
There are 11 games left in the Leafs’ season and they still haven’t secured a playoff birth. They even risk falling out of the playoff picture after losing their last three games.
Toronto is simply running out of time and available points to get things done. Their playoff cushion now sits at four points, but there are three teams – Columbus, Washington and Detroit – that stand within shooting distance of the Leafs for the first Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.
It doesn’t help that the Leafs have lost their last three games to teams they should have been able to beat – Washington, Detroit and Tampa Bay – which are also teams grouped around Toronto in the standings. The latest loss came last night when the visiting Lightning, led by Steven Stamkos, beat the Leafs 5-3 at the Air Canada Centre.
If the Leafs need some rest to recharge themselves after playing six games in nine games, including five straight road games, they’ll get some now. Toronto doesn’t play again until Saturday when they host arch-rival Montreal. They’ll also get another shot at Detroit the following Saturday, but by this time, the fate of the Leafs’ current season may have already been decided.
How could things get any tougher for the Leafs? Toss in the present situation between head coach Randy Carlyle and backup goaltender James Reimer, who’s play has begun to reflect the tension, and you have a recipe for disaster. (When does Jonathan Bernier get back?)
I swear: the Leafs are cursed.
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