By Stan Smith

Since starting the season off with a pedestrian 4-4-2 record, the Toronto Maple Leafs have since posted a record of 18-3-4. That’s the second-best record in the NHL since the first of November. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, the team with the best record in that time period is the Boston Bruins, who have gone 20-3-3. 

Related: Reports of Maple Leafs’ Tavares Decline Are Exaggerated

The Current Status of the Atlantic Division

As of right now, the Atlantic Division standings look like this. 

TeamGames PlayedPoints
Boston Bruins3559
Toronto Maple Leafs3550
Tampa Bay Lightning3343
Detroit Red Wings3337
Buffalo Sabres3234
Florida Panther3534
Ottawa Senators3433
Montreal Canadiens3533

Even with the season less than halfway done, unless the Bruins collapse entirely, with a nine-point lead over the second-place Maple Leafs it appears that Boston finishing in first place is a given. 

What About the Remaining Atlantic Division Teams?

Toronto is seven points up on Tampa Bay, but the Lightning has two games in hand over the Maple Leafs. If the Lightning can win both of those games, the spread between the two teams will tighten to only three points. 

If we look below Tampa Bay in the standings, we see the Detroit Red Wings six points behind them in fourth place with the same number of games played. According to the NHL schedule, the Lightning and the Red Wings are scheduled to meet two more times this season. Those games will be played on February 25th in Detroit and then again on April 13th in Tampa.

Matt Murray is helping the Maple Leafs put together a great season.

If the Red Wings were to win both of those games, it would shrink Tampa Bay’s lead over Detroit to just two points. Those two wins would also help the Maple Leafs maintain their second-place position in the division as it would mean four fewer points for the Lightning. 

Related: Three Takeaways in Maple Leafs’ 5-4 OT Win vs. Blues

What This All Means for the Postseason

If the final standings in the Atlantic Division were identical to what they are now, the Maple Leafs would once again face the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs. If the Red Wings were to somehow overtake the Lightning in the standings, the Red Wings would be the team the Maple Leafs would take on. 

Would Auston Matthews like his Maple Leafs’ team to play the Lighting again this postseason?

Obviously, there are never any guarantees of winning during the playoffs. However, if the options are the Maple Leafs taking on the team that in the past three seasons has won two Stanley Cups and made it to the finals in the third year, or taking on a team that has not been past the first round of the playoffs in ten years, we have to think the preference would be the team that has not been the best team in the postseason over the past three seasons.  

Would the Maple Leafs Prefer to Play the Lightning Again?

However, how would the Maple Leafs’ players feel about who they meet? Would they rather play the Lightning if they could?

Who’s to say the Maple Leafs couldn’t beat the Lightning in the first round this season?  If not for a few controversial penalty calls and a hot goalie they could have defeated them last season. 

But still………………

Go Red Wings Go.  


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