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January 24, 2011

Leafs Still in the Hunt for Playoff Spot

Last night the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers battled it out at the Air Canada Centre. With both teams desperate to get into the playoffs, the game was a nail bitter that ended with the Leafs winning in overtime 4-3. The Toronto Maple Leafs may be the ultimate procrastinators. Once again they have waited until the last minutes to consider the fact that they might want to go to the playoffs. It seems like it takes panic to spur the Leafs into playing a full game and not giving up.

Although the Leafs are still a very long shot for the playoffs, at least they are trying. Seeing the team scramble and struggle for points is very pleasing for fans who have suffered through lackluster play for the majority of the season. It is interesting to see a team that lost a ton of games that they potentially could have won throughout the season find ways to win now. The playing field is always level at the beginning of a game and coming back from possible defeat is an option if the team is willing to try. Last night the Leafs fell behind in the game even though they clearly out played the Flyers in the first and second period. Things were looking grim for the Leafs until they mounted a comeback in the third period and forced overtime. They even pulled Toskala at the end of the third period in hopes that they would be able to score before overtime was necessary.

This is the best part of the season. Teams that already have a playoff spot secured tend to play okay for the most part, but those teams that are on the outside looking in play with an intensity that is not seen before the last few games of the season. Of course, if these teams had played with such determination throughout the season they would not be in the predicament they are in. The Toronto Maple Leafs are, perhaps, the best example of this phenomenon. The trade deadline passes, the team shows some weird solidarity that leaves us all wondering what is going on in Toronto, and suddenly a group of guys that looked marginal at best can find ways to win. There is something strange, but exciting about this type of comeback. Of course, it would have been nice if the Leafs could have staged their little surge just a few weeks earlier.

Of course, after goals by Mats Sundin, Pavel Kubina and the impressive Jeremy Williams the Leafs are still seven points out of a playoff spot. At this point though, all the Leafs can do is play with a fierce desperation and hope that a few other teams falter along the way. If you are a Leafs fan you still believe that there is a playoff hope somewhere at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think that the Leafs will make it this year but I am looking forward to catching their games and watching a team of underachievers show how much potential they have.

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