April 6, 2012
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
The Maple Leafs' failure to earn a playoff spot is summed up starkly in their record since the all-star break.
The Leafs, which should not surprise anyone, have won a league-low 10 games since the NHL took some time off for the all-star events in Ottawa at the end of January.
Even the Minnesota Wild -- the only team that had a playoff berth at the break to wind up losing it -- won more games. The Wild, and the Montreal Canadiens (who entertain the Leafs on Saturday night at the Bell Centre), have won 11 games after the break.
The Leafs are 10-17-5, and along the way, played badly enough to get coach Ron Wilson fired on March 2.
Their 17 regulation losses post-break are tied for the most in the NHL with Minnesota.
The Leafs were in ninth with 55 points, equal to Washington, Florida and New Jersey. In the time that has elapsed since Joffrey Lupul and other Leafs all-stars were given a rough ride by Senators fans in Ottawa, the Leafs earned 25 points. New Jersey got 45, Florida 37 and Washington 35.
As mentioned, only the Wild fell out of the playoffs. The Phoenix Coyotes, 18-7-5 since the break entering play Friday, are the only club in the playoffs that was on the outside looking in at the time.
The most wins since the break? Pittsburgh has 22. New Jersey has 21, while the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks have 20 each.
Though the Leafs and Canadiens are playoff toast, the result of the game will affect positions in the draft lottery.
If the Leafs win, they would finish out of the lottery running for the first pick overall. If they lose, they could finish as low as 27th. No matter the result, the Canadiens will have a high lottery pick.
Centre Mikhail Grabovski, who has missed the past two games with a laceration on his leg, said on Friday afternoon that he will play in the season finale against the Canadiens.
No wonder. Grabovski usually performs well against the team that drafted him in 2004, and has five points (three goals and two assists) in two games in Montreal this season.
"I don't feel any pain," Grabovski said. "I want to play in the last game. It is kind of important for me."
GEOFFRION WAKES UP
Blake Geoffrion has two goals in 12 games for the Canadiens since he was acquired from the Nashville Predators.
The grandson of legend Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, Blake scored Montreal's only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss in Carolina on Thursday night.
"I saw it as a wake-up call," Geoffrion said. "I realized that I have to grind a little harder if I'm going to get scoring chances."
The Canadiens did not practise on Friday.
If you think the Leafs were bad at home, and they were, winning just 18 games at the Air Canada Centre, the Canadiens have been worse at the Bell Centre. The Habs have 15 home victories, the fewest in the NHL. They have not been as unproductive at home since 2000-01, when they won 15 that season ... Leafs winger Clarke MacArthur, with 20 goals, would tie his personal career high of 21, done last season, if he scores on Saturday ... Few Leafs should be as motivated as rookie Carter Ashton, who is in danger of seeing nothing but zeroes beside his name in the Leafs' media guide next season. Ashton has no points in 15 games since he was recalled from the Marlies.