The Toronto Maple Leafs playoff odds lessen with every loss they take, but there’s a more than decent chance those loses will slow down as the season rolls along. They’re a team full of talent and excellent goaltending that is playing below the level they’re capable of playing. They also have a much easier schedule the rest of the season than they’ve had so far.
Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Odds Still Favorable
The Athletic has the Maple Leafs with a 68% chance of making the playoffs ahead of their Saturday night tilt against the Edmonton Oilers. Some other sites, such as Hockey-Reference have them much lower, but those sites fail to add a human element. The players know they need to get better, the back-up goaltending problem has to be addressed, and the Maple Leafs have already had some hard games that have helped put them in the predicament they’re currently in. The trends that have led to the Maple Leafs losing are not likely to continue.
Back-to-Backs for Backups
The Maple Leafs are 0-6-1 with their back-up goaltending. Every one of those games was the second of a back-to-back. That’s seven back-to-backs in 33 games. They only have six in the remaining 49 games. The next one is next weekend against the 8-22-3 Detroit Red Wings. Even if Michael Hutchinson is still the backup for that game. You have to think the Maple Leafs could pull out a win.
Just because there are only six remaining back-to-backs, it doesn’t mean the Maple Leafs will start Frederik Andersen another 43 games. If they feel he needs to be rested for the playoffs, they’ll cut that number down. If the team isn’t in a playoff spot as February and March roll around though, Andersen may very well be starting another 40 or more games this season. It doesn’t matter how rested he is for the playoffs if the Maple Leafs didn’t qualify for them.
The Maple Leafs play only 21 more games against teams currently in the playoffs. That’s out of 49 games. They do have two games left against the Tampa Bay Lightning who are not currently in a playoff spot.
In their first 33 games, 22 were against teams currently in the playoffs. That means 67% of they’re games so far have been against playoff teams while only 43% of their remaining games are against playoff teams.
Consistently losing to playoff teams doesn’t inspire confidence when thinking about the Maple Leafs having post-season success, but the focus has quickly shifted from post-season success to regular-season success as the team has floundered out of the gates.
The Maple Leafs are 6-4 with Sheldon Keefe as head coach. That’s probably not a good enough pace to get the Maple Leafs back into a playoff position. It’s a lot better than Mike Babcock‘s record of 9-10-4 though. There’s also a pretty good chance Keefe’s winning percentage will go up as the players get used to his coaching style.
It’s also interesting to note that eight of the ten games Keefe has coached in have been against teams currently in a playoff spot.
There’s nothing to say the Maple Leafs won’t suffer through more injuries this season, but they’ve had their fair share so far. John Tavares has missed seven games, Mitch Marner missed 11, Zach Hyman missed 19, and Travis Dermott, who looks like he could find a consistent spot in the top-four, missed 13. Trevor Moore should be returning soon. He’s missed 12 games so far. Most recently, Andreas Johnsson was hurt blocking a shot and could be out for a considerable amount of time. He’s missed three games so far and will be re-evaluated in the new year.
With all due respect to Moore and Johnsson, the Maple Leafs core is pretty healthy. That should help the team improve it’s winning percentage.
Points Are Points
Last season it took 98 points to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs currently have 34 points. To reach 98 points, they’ll need 64 points in 49 games. That’s something like a 27-12-10 or a 29-14-6 record. They’ll need to win 65% of their games. If we count overtime and shootout losses as half a win, for half points, the Maple Leafs have a points percentage of 51.5 of their games so far. The Bruins are just under 70 percent. The Buffalo Sabres, a team the Maple Leafs could focus on trying to catch in the standings, are at 57.5 percent.
It’s a tough row to hoe for the Toronto Maple Leafs playoffs drive, but it’s possible. I will refrain from referring to the St. Louis Blues magical run last season. While that may inspire teams and players, what the Blues did was an anomaly. Good for them, but it’s not something we’re going to see happen every year.
If the Maple Leafs did focus on who they would overtake to make the playoffs. The Sabres are one team. Toronto plays them twice more this season, including next Tuesday. The Montreal Canadiens are another team to watch. The Maple Leafs play them twice more as well, including the final game of the season. Wouldn’t it be dandy if the winner of that game qualified and the loser did not? That game is in Toronto by the way.
The Wild Card spot is tougher. It’s occupied by the two Pennsylvania teams at the moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins have 40 points and the Philadelphia Flyers have 39. Buffalo and Montreal, the second and third seeds in the Atlantic Division, have 38 and 36 points respectively. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have also played fewer games. Buffalo has played the same number of games as Toronto and the Canadiens have played only one fewer than them. It’s an easier road to make the top three in the Atlantic than to catch a wild card spot. At least for now.
It’s been a surprising start for the Maple Leafs and they’ve dug themselves a hole to be sure. There’s no guarantee they will turn things around and win enough to make the playoffs, but they have the tools to do it. The defence is looking better than it has in years and Kyle Dubas is likely hard at work finding a suitable back-up for Andersen. With Babcock gone, the players claim to have more freedom than ever. If they can start cashing in on that style of play, the Maple Leafs will improve. If not, and the season is wasted, Dubas will have some difficult questions to answer this off-season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Odds Main Photo: DENVER, COLORADO – FEBRUARY 12: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs fights for control of the puck against Erik Johnson #6 of the Colorado Avalanche in the third period at the Pepsi Center on February 12, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)