Another win and another small push up the standings for the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, as they improved to 7-2-2 since the all-star break with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders.
And as you can imagine, many of the questions Ron Wilson and company were facing today after practice were about their slim playoff hopes with 22 games to play. The coach, however, remains his brutally honest self on the subject.
"I mean, realistically, teams that are six points back at this point probably rarely make the playoffs," Wilson said. "We understand that. But we're going to do our best to try and make it. And we believe we can.
"But there's absolutely no room for error. You go into a slump now, you're done. And you pretty much the rest of the way, mentally, at least the way I look at it, you've got to win two out of three. I've been saying that for a long time, but it certainly holds true now. Even if you win two our of three, you might not make it."
Winning roughly two-thirds of their remaining games would give the Leafs a 14-8 record the rest of the way and 87 points, which likely won't quite be enough. Sports probability website sportsclubstats.com gives Toronto a 3.9-per-cent chance to qualify, with 89 points (a 15-7-0 record) being the mark at which they have better than a 50-50 chance of getting in.
Asked today if he was aware how well the Leafs need to do to make the playoffs, defenceman Luke Schenn acknowledged he didn't know the magic number, only that there was a steep climb ahead.
"I haven't done the math, no," Schenn said. "I think we're capable of doing it. There's no more time to waste. I mean, you can't lose two in a row anymore, you've got to have big weeks every week and every game's really huge for us.
"We've definitely crawled our way up. There's still some time here. It'd be different if you had seven or eight games to go, it'd be a little bit tough, but we have a lot of time here. You've just got to keep going. Really, I don't think the pressure's on us."
The Leafs have appeared to play better after a recent string of trades that shipped out Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg. Wilson said both he and the rest of the team are on board with the more long-term thinking GM Brian Burke is using.
"Our players understand that," Wilson said. "I don't think we should, if you look at it that way, make trades to bring in some people who are temporary stopgaps that set us back another two or three years. It doesn't discourage anybody. It's a challenge for us."
Wilson added that some of the team's minor-league callups like Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb have out worked more established players.
"Guys who have never, ever played long in the NHL, yeah, those are the guys that you as a group don't expect anything from because they're not the high profile guys," he said. "They want to come and play. They don't get talked to, read about, or anything like that. So they come in and they're desperate to be here.
"They go about in a very professional way and get the job done. We're a better team now than we were earlier and a lot of times it has to do with the grit that some of these guys bring to the game every night. The work ethic is there. They will do anything to stay."
- Netminder James Reimer will get the start in goal against the Canadiens tomorrow in Montreal. J-S Giguere should be ready to back him up by the weekend, but for now, Ben Scrivens is in that role.
- Wilson on the Habs: "It's probably going to be a low-scoring game. They're not a high offence team. Obviously we aren't. We're going to need solid goaltending from James and we're going to have to probably [win] one of those 2-1, 1-0, 3-2 type games. That's what I'm counting on. Even though we haven't scored a goal in Montreal this year. We've got to find a way to crack Carey [Price]."
- Joffrey Lupul missed practice after sitting out some time in the tail end of last night's win over the New York Islanders, but he'll play tomorrow. "Just a maintenance day," Wilson said. "He's a little banged up ... A little under the weather."
- Wilson on Mike Komisarek's continued struggles this season: "It's his confidence. And other guys have played better. In a game, the way it's been going for us, we end up half way through the game determining who's played best, who gives us the best chance to win and we dole out the ice time that way. It's not have [Komisarek and Brett Lebda] struggled; it's the other guys have played really well, aren't making any mistakes and deserve to play."