Bad Coaching Costs the Toronto Maple Leafs Chance to Clinch Playoffs

Mar 4, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple LeafS head coach Sheldon Keefe looks on during a
Mar 4, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple LeafS head coach Sheldon Keefe looks on during a / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
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The Toronto Maple Leafs only needed a single point to clinch the playoffs.

Ultimately, the Toronto Maple Leafs didn't get it, but it doesn't matter - they are 100% guaranteed to make the post-season. They just didn't clinch it last night, which isn't a big deal.

The Leafs were the better team for the first two periods, which is impressive when you consider they didn't have Mitch Marner or Timothy Liljegren, and Morgan Rielly was playing his first game back after an injury.

Also, they were up against the NHL's hottest team who has now won ten of their last 11 games. When you consider all that - and the fact that the Leafs beat Tampa in both of their previous meetings this year - you can't be upset they lost.

To sum up- the Leafs were the better team for two of three periods, and were shorthanded, going up against a top team. There are some losses that you should be upset about, but this isn't one of them.

Bad Coaching Costs the Toronto Maple Leafs Chance to Clinch Playoffs

Now, we all make mistakes and it's no big deal. Sheldon Keefe has, overall, taken a flawed team and produced better results than the numbers or roster suggets should be possible.

That said, how in the hell do you put Ryan Reaves and the fourth line on the ice against Nikita Kucherov and Braydon Point for a defensive zone faceoff? The game winning goal was in the back of the Leafs net 30 seconds after this horrendous decision.

Otherwise? Not a bad game. Joseph Woll didn't play well, but I'd still have him as the playoff starter. The Leafs clearly want this to be the case as he has played both recent games against Boston, started three in a row last week, and was the goalie last night for what was perhaps the season's most important game.

Had the Leafs won, they've be up on Tampa by eight points and would most likely have avoided being a Wild Card team. Instead, it's a four point lead with seven games (one against each other) to go.,

The Leafs aren't in a great spot heading in to the playoffs - injuries are mounting, their goaltending looks so bad it's amazing more people haven't noticed, their special teams are bad, and their coach is clearly in a "Cup or Fired" situation.

Plus if they don't make it to at least the third round, there could be wholesale organizational changes when the TML parent company gets a new President this summer.

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Good thing the team was smart at the deadline and ignored their bad blue-line and goaltending. Of course, since the NHL is the randomest of all sports leagues, this is the year they'll probably go all the way!