Season’s end, and a Leafs game still matters. Wait, what?


    Normally, you would figure that game # 82 on a team’s docket, in a season where that team has been eliminated from playoff contention, would be rather meaningless.   Normally, you would expect it to be nothing more than perhaps an opportunity to give young players a bit of NHL experience before hitting the greens.

    But when is normal ever the norm in Toronto?   Somehow, tonight’s season-closing game is still meaningful to the final outcome of the Leafs‘ season … as are the final games for the LA Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes, which will be played late this afternoon and tonight.

    All that hangs in the balance is an opportunity to place in the bottom 5 of the league … a position which just so happens to be accompanied by a (slim) chance at winning the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft lottery.

    The Current Situation

    In 81 games played, Toronto has 79 points, good for 24th overall in the NHL … which is good for the 7th overall pick, pre-lottery.

    In 81 games played, Phoenix and Los Angeles each have 77 points, placing 25th and 26th respectively, in league standings.  The Coyotes have 35 wins.  LA has 33.  Toronto?  Also 33.

    Remember that the first tiebreaker in the NHL standings is the total number of wins.

    Let’s run the scenarios:

    Scenario #1:  Toronto loses in regulation

    If Phoenix and LA both win,  all three teams will be tied at 79 points, with Toronto having the fewest wins of the three.   Toronto would finish the season with the #5 pick entering the draft lottery (and thus a slim chance at #1), while LA would have #6 and Phoenix #7.

    If only one of Phoenix or LA wins, Toronto will finish with the #6 pick in the lottery, no chance at the #1 overall pick, and a slim chance at #2.

    If both Phoenix and LA lose, in overtime or regulation, Toronto will finish with the #7 pick in the lottery, no chance at #1 or #2, and a slim chance at #3 overall.

    Scenario #2: Toronto loses in overtime or wins the game

    If the Leafs earn the single point they will have 80 on the year and the results from the Coyotes’ and Kings’ games will not matter (Phoenix and Los Angeles can only get to 79 each).   Toronto will finish with the #7 pick in the lottery, no chance at #1 or #2, and a slim chance at #3 overall.

    Today’s Games

    San Jose at Los Angeles
    In SJ’s favor:  Sharks have won 8 of their past 9 games in Los Angeles.
    In LA’s favor: Sharks no longer in running for President’s Trophy; SJ may be resting key players.

    Anaheim at Phoenix
    In Anaheim’s favor: goaltender Jonas Hiller has won 6 straight starts against Phoenix.
    In Phoenix’s favor:  22-15-3 at home this season; coming off spoiler win over San Jose.

    Ottawa at Toronto
    In Ottawa’s favor: 19-10-4 under new coach; Toronto has allowed 30 GA in past 7 home games.
    In Toronto’s favor: lead season series with the Sens 3-1-1.

    What do you think will happen tonight?   Will the Maple Leafs be going into the draft lottery with the 5th, 6th, or 7th overall pick?

    And can Toronto fans bear the thought of actually cheering for their team to lose to Ottawa, of all teams? Or would you rather see the Maple Leafs defeat the Senators (yet again), since going from 5th to 1st in the lottery is a low probability (8.1 % chance of winning the lottery) anyway?

    Let the game(s) within the game begin!