First Playoff Game Tonight

The NHL playoff tree does not include the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yet.

The NHL playoff tree does not include the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yet.

BY:JEFF Schneberk

Don’t pay too much attention to that picture up there at the top, especially if you are a Leaf fan too. With all of those teams listed in the possible playoff bracket for the opening round, you won’t find the Leafs up there, at least not right now.

If the playoffs were to start tonight, you would have Columbus playing Boston in the opening round, and have Detroit visiting Pittsburgh. Other Eastern Conference matchups would have Montreal playing Tampa and the most boring of all, Rangers and Philly.

In the West, it would be Phoenix vs the St. Louis Blues, Chicago vs Colorado (whoever wins that one would be favourites, even with Kane and Toews injured right now). Minnesota plays Anaheim and the Kings would play San Jose.
If the Blue and White want to advance this point, they moreless need to win six games in a row, it would start tonight as they take on the 31-37 Calgary Flames.

FLAMES (31-37-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (36-32-8)


Last 10: Calgary 6-4-0; Toronto 1-9-0

This is the second game of the season between the two clubs. Jonathan Bernier will look for his second win of the season against Calgary. The first meeting was a 4-2 win back on Oct. 30.

Unlike October, the Leafs are desperate to get back into the winning column, and are in their worst losing streak in about 20 years. The jokes have been flying around, none of them are funny, especially if you are dead serious about this team making up for eight close-to-embarrassing games and finally getting their shit together in time.

Calgary on the other hand is doing a swell job playing spoiler, having knocked down several playoff teams in the last three weeks (Anaheim, Dallas, SJ and NYR).

Calgary was dropped by Ottawa over the weekend by a score of 6-3 and Kari Ramo will be getting the start tonight.

Phil Kessel who took a JVR shot off the ankle in the Detroit game over the weekend, apparently is good to go, and they just must need a herculean effort from their leading scorer for two seasons in a row. You can’t count on a guy like Kessel to singlehandedly win a game for this team (at least not like you could when Curtis Joseph played on this team) but as anyone who follows Toronto knows, as Kessel operates at high gear, so does the rest of the team.

“He says he’s available to play,” Carlyle said. “So basically it’s been two days of treatment and he’s telling us he’s ready.”

If he can get on the scoreboard early, maybe an assist from Tyler Bozak, this should be a very winnable game for the Leafs.

If you are one of the fans debating over which goaltender will give them the best chance to win, you might as well put all of your eggs in Bernier’s basket; Bernier (forwhatever reason) has been management’s favour from day one, will have the team on his shoulder’s again.

“We all knew [Saturday] was a big game but, the crazy thing is, we’re still in it. We lost eight in a row now and we are still in it so, we know we just have to win one and I’m sure the ball is going to start going on our side,” said Bernier, who has allowed four goals in each of his past three starts.

“We have to make sure we prepare for Calgary and hopefully turn the tide around here,” Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri , whose last goal came on March 25 against St. Louis, since said. “It’s been tough on everyone the last 12 or 13 days just dealing with all of this. A lot of those games we’ve played we felt we played well enough to win but we just haven’t.”



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