Leafs in a playoff pickle
Beat Sabres or turn out the lights on the way out
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Luke Schenn takes a shot during Leafs practice in Toronto on Monday. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel)
TORONTO - The Maple Leafs are in no mood to discuss what could have been.
With the Buffalo Sabres coming into the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night, the Leafs are seven points behind the Sabres for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and have six games to play.
Toronto is in a pickle, and it’s doubtful the Leafs will end a skid that has seen them miss the playoffs in every NHL season since 2004.
Hindsight usually is not a fun notion for any professional athlete. Still, it’s hard not to think of what could have been had the Leafs played sound hockey in November. Starting with a 2-0 loss to the Bruins in Boston on Oct. 28, the Leafs won just three games in 16, a slide that ended when they won back-to-back games in the first week of December.
“The easy thing to do is to look back in the past, and it was a tough month that hurt us a lot,” defenceman Luke Schenn said. “But you can’t do would have, could have, should have.”
It didn’t help that captain Dion Phaneuf was injured for the majority of those games. Had the Leafs managed to win even two or three of those games — they lost twice in a shootout and once in overtime in that span — the game Tuesday night might not be so crucial.
Now, the Leafs have to worry about Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who has two shutouts in his past three games and on Monday was named the NHL’s first star of the week. Miller has 24 career wins in 31 decisions against the Leafs.
“He is playing great hockey for them, but we want to get traffic and make sure he stays in the crease,” said Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur, who was a teammate of Miller in Buffalo. “When he comes out and cuts the angles, that’s when he is really good. We want to keep him backed up in the net as much as possible and put the pucks there.”