It may not be how the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to accomplish it, but last night’s overtime loss allowed them to take over third spot in the Atlantic Division. It has bee a long time coming.
The Leafs long slide that started in November lasted all the way to the first week of January had the Leafs fall from the top of the Atlantic to out of the playoffs. Then the Leafs hit their six-game winning streak and that changed the Leafs fortunes.
Combined the Montreal Canadiens‘ recent struggles, the Leafs were able to climb back into a tie with the Habs for third place with the final win in the streak. With the point gathered last night, they finally climbed ahead of them.
Now, currently the Leafs are only one point ahead of the Habs and they are not the only team they have to worry about. The Detroit Red Wings are four points back and the Ottawa Senators are six points back.
With the new playoff system, it is highly advantageous to finish in the top three of your division. Throughout the season, if a team stays in the top three, the only teams beneath them they have to worry about catching up to them are teams in their own division. If you’re in a wild card spot, you have to worry about the other division as well.
The Leafs will obviously have to continue to play well and get great goaltending from Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer to stay where they are. They also need to avoid the long slumps they have been prone to having this season.
The question is whether they can actually do it.