The Morning After: Maple Leafs Choking & Stars Surprising


Are the Toronto Maple Leafs on the verge of choking and missing the playoffs?  Not likely so calm down Leafs fans and read on.

Despite another sub-par performance by the buds, the Leafs remain very much as a favorite to clinch a playoff spot despite losing a 5-3 decision to the streaking New York Islanders.  Granted the Leafs are blowing their chances of securing home-ice advantage, it’s hard to fathom this club choking to the point where they miss the playoffs.

They still remain five points up on the ninth place Winnipeg Jets and the Leafs need just three points to ensure they’ll be playing in the second season.  No need to panic Leaf fans, this club will make the playoffs and give you reason to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Speaking  of the Islanders, hot damn they’re playing some great hockey of late.  Although they remain in seventh place, the Isles are just two points back of the Leafs for fifth place, a spot that seemed almost out of reach a week ago.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Jets continue to make life complicated for teams like the Islanders as they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime. Not only are the Jets staying in the playoff hunt, they remain just two points back of the division leading Washington Capitals for the third seed.  Not sure if the Jets have what it takes to overthrow the Rangers or Capitals, but they’ve revitalized the city of Winnipeg with the thrill of the playoff chase and have made Bettman look like a genius for moving the Thrashers north of the border.

Speaking of the Rangers, they were winners on Thursday night, beating the lowly Florida Panthers 6-1.  The Rangers remain tied with Winnipeg for the final playoff spot and should they not make the cut, would this be one of the greatest teams ever assembled to not make the playoffs?  There have been some great teams fall short of winning the Cup or  losing out in the first round, but at least they made the postseason.

As for the Capitals who were the hottest team in the NHL heading into tonight’s action, they finally lost for the first time in ten games, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators.

Not to worry Caps’ fans, this team will win the division and could  be poised  for a run at Lord Stanley.  You heard it here first.

Finally, how about those Dallas Stars.  Here’s a team that was said to be entering a re-build mode by trading captain Brandan Morrow, veteran Jaromir Jagr and sniper Derek Roy at the deadline.  Not only have they played better hockey post trade deadline, they are on the verge of accomplishing what was once thought as an impossible feat – making the playoffs.

Thanks to a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks, the Stars jumped to ninth place, past the Detroit Red Wings and on the heels of the Columbus Blue Jackets for eighth.  Time is ticking though and the Stars need some help, specifically the Jackets to lose so they can take advantage of their game in hand.

If this team falls short of the postseason this run has to be considered miraculous none the less.  This team was supposed to fold up camp and fade away quietly and they’ve done the opposite.  Joe Nieuwendyk as GM of the year?  I think he has to be in the top three.