NHL: Maple Leafs clinch last playoff spot

You should remember that, because the old Leafs would have blown it, but things change.

The Leafs would do their chances in round-one a big service if they could grab a point against Columbus tomorrow, thereby renewing the Battle of Ontario next week rather than entering the Conference quarterfinals as major underdogs to the President's Trophy winners. It also would have given us the Boston Bruins as the last wild card, which meant a first-round series against the Washington Capitals, which meant the incredible 13-years-in-the-making showdown between Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy and his former team. Fun! Toronto built a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but the Blue Jackets stormed back and ripped off three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead.

Stuck in a one-for-24 goal funk coming into Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre, Phil Kessel scored a very Phil-like goal in the first period, his first tally in 11 games.

Babcock is basically saying Toronto will be the best team in the league in two years, and that's a message: this Leafs team can afford to be ambitious. He got lucky a little while later though, his innocent shot bouncing off a pair of Leafs defencemen before sliding through the pads of McElhinney for the 3-2 lead. Roman Polak also left in the second period after suffering what appeared to be a leg injury.

We'll miss you in the playoffs, Dallas. Krug is their Karlsson. His arrival near the trade deadline on February 27 to bolster the Leafs' fourth line and leadership group was a sign management decided the team was a playoff contender ahead of schedule. Anything less than a trip to the Stanley Cup final is a bust for the Capitals. Columbus will likely rest some of their starters in preparation for the postseason, but fans would no doubt feel more comfortable if they pulled off a victory.

Don't tell the Penguins' No. 81 that his team's 81st game of the season barely mattered.

"It's definitely been some ups and downs over the course of that", van Riemsdyk said.

While some heavyweight teams stumbled into the post-season after securing their spot, the Capitals have kept the heat on. By the time the game was over, it had dropped to 96.7 per cent.

After a brief, rough adjustment to playing in Toronto, the Danish-born netminder has been a star for Toronto.

"You have to beat the best at some point", said Jake Gardiner.

"When we come this far, we are not going to be satisfied with anything but trying to move on and trying to win games so were not just happy to be here".

"I'm proud of the guys, I'm excited for the guys". It led to a scoring chance for Leafs rookie Auston Matthews, but Fleury was able to scramble back in enough time to make the save.

Matthews finished with 19 wrist shot goals, 10 snap-shot markers, six via tip and another five on the backhand. "Bobby Orr-Esque", analyst Jamie McLennan said of the attempt. Harpur led all Senators players in ice time during the game with almost 25 minutes. White struggled in the faceoff circles, where he was 6-14 ... "I thought it would be like this - you have to really crawl in at the end".

"I remember losing a series in the Cup finals to L.A". Mike Condon was charged with three of the Senators' six giveaways.

Then again, I wouldn't hate it if the Leafs played Marincin in his place anyways. His eight game-winning goals tied Howie Meeker for another Maple Leafs rookie record set in 1946-47. It will face the Senators if it gets at least a point against Columbus. Andreas Englund won't fondly remember his fifth career National Hockey League game. Englund was minus-3 in 7:17 of ice time through two periods ...

  • Leroy Wright