When the National Hockey League decided to switch its playoff format and move two teams from the Western Conference to the East, did anybody figure that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be the team likely to eliminate the Maple Leafs?
Both in the standings — and on the ice.
The Blue Jackets?
Team that has never won a playoff game.
Team without history.
Team without tradition.
Those Blue Jackets.
The Jackets won a game they had to win in Philadelphia Thursday night with the Leafs clinging to some kind of mathematical playoff hope with their own overtime victory over the Boston Bruins.
This was supposed to be the night the Leafs could climb back into eighth with a victory.
But the Jackets hung tough. They shut out the Flyers in Philly. They maintained their one-point lead over Toronto, which is really a two-point lead in the grand scheme of things.
And we hate to bring this up but we must: The Leafs played Columbus three times this season. They lost all three. Were outscored 13-3. All regulation-time defeats. And were embarrassed in two of those games.
Yep, beating Boston in overtime, even after blowing a 3-1 lead, even after collapsing in the third period, even after losing Jonathan Bernier to injury and James Reimer back in goal in the third period, felt special for Leaf games.
It gave them some hope.
It gave them a night to feel good about a team there hasn’t been a lot of feel good.
But really, they are no closer to making a playoff comeback today than they were yesterday and the odds of getting in are probably just a little more extreme.
“We’re alive,” said coach Randy Carlyle, understanding the math. “But a lot of things have to go our way.”