NHL Playoff Push: Maple Leafs leap back into the picture

Five different goal scorers scored for the Toronto Maple Leafs as the rebounded from a tough loss to the Florida Panthers and pounded the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A lot can happen in just one night of hockey at this time of year. Case in point: the Maple Leafs. We take a closer look in today’s edition of the NHL Playoff Push.

Here’s a look at the post-season picture right now.


If the season ended today…

(M1) vs. (WC2)

(A1) vs. (WC1)

(M2) vs. (M3)

(A2) vs. (A3)

Here’s what the Eastern Conference standings look like today:

What’d I miss?

After a dismal outing on Tuesday night against the Panthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded in a big way with a 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a best-case response for the Toronto club, who came out flat on Tuesday after posting several photos of their off-day fishing trip in Florida. Thursday’s victory featured a 33-save shutout for Frederik Anderson and a five-goal third period, and launched the Maple Leafs back into the playoff picture.

Going into the contest, the Maple Leafs were on the outside looking in with 76 points—one shy of both Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders—making Thursday’s matchup a must-win for all parties. The Leafs are now one point ahead of both clubs and owe a big thank you to the Winnipeg Jets, who topped the Islanders 4-2 to keep them at 77.

In fact, according to the number crunchers at sportsclubstats.com, the Maple Leafs upped their post-season odds by a whopping 25 per cent in just a single game.

Elsewhere in the East, the Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff hopes suffered a setback in a big 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils while the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped spots in the standings. Columbus jumped up to second place in the Metropolitan Division thanks to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

The Ottawa Senators were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1, but hang on to the second spot in the Atlantic. The Boston Bruins fell to the Edmonton Oilers 7-4, which means there’s no movement in the Atlantic’s top three.

Fun fact:

Friday’s game to watch: Penguins vs. Devils

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been strong all season, but are once again turning up the heat at the right time. After a bit of a stumble on Wednesday, losing 4-0 to the Flyers, they’ll no doubt be looking to rebound and apply a little more pressure to their Metropolitan opponents—they’re just one point shy of No. 2 in the Metro, and three points behind the Capitals for the division’s top spot.


If the season ended today…

(C1) vs. (WC2)

(P1) vs. (WC1)

(C2) vs. (C3)

(P2) vs. (P3)

Here’s what the Western Conference standings look like today:

What’d I miss?

The playoff picture in the West didn’t change so much as it was just rearranged a bit.

The Nashville Predators stayed in the picture with a tight 2-1 overtime win against the Capitals, while the Minnesota Wild suffered their third straight loss, this time to the Hurricanes. Minnesota is still firmly in the post-season with 92 points, but they could begin to lose sight of the Central’s top spot if they continue to lose—especially if the Blackhawks keep winning, which is what they did against the Senators on Thursday.

The Oilers jumped back up to third in the Pacific with a big win over the Bruins, keeping pace with the Ducks and one-upping the Flames.

The Winnipeg Jets, meanwhile, are 10 points out right now and will need a bunch of luck and a lot of wins in the weeks ahead if they want to be part of the conversation. Thursday was a good start, with a 4-2 victory over the Islanders.

Fun fact:

Friday’s game to watch: Stars vs. Flames

While we’ll definitely be checking in on the Ducks to see how firm their grip is on the No. 2 spot in the Pacific, all eyes will be on the Flames to see if they can rebound from Wednesday’s streak-ending loss. The Dallas Stars are on the outside looking in, but Calgary is still very much in the picture, and a win on Friday night would see them leapfrog the Oilers for third place. A Flames win and a Ducks loss would mean Calgary’s back in second place.

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