The regulation losses were going to come, sooner or later, and the Toronto Maple Leafs all seemed to agree with what their coach spelled out in black and white after an ugly 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

"It would be awful idiotic to say that we were going to win every game the rest of the way," Ron Wilson said. "We'll move on to the next one, learn our lessons and get better."

He was right, of course.

Winning every game wasn't going to be possible.

Winning most of the rest, however, is a must if Toronto wants a hope of making the playoffs.

The Leafs are now three games into their most difficult month of the season, a 15-games-in-30-days stretch that includes eight games against teams with 80-plus points and playoff berths all but locked up.

There are also the must-wins along the way, including Tuesday's visit to the New York Islanders, one of a handful of teams behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference standing.

On an improbable 10-2-4 run since the all-star break before Saturday's loss, the Leafs realize they now need a similar 16-game stretch to close the year to get into the postseason for the first time in seven years.

"There's probably a very, very small margin for error," defenceman Luke Schenn said. "But in saying that, we've had a pretty good last month here."

The Leafs currently sit five points back of eighth in the East, and the good news is that three of their March games come against two of the three teams they're chasing (two against the Buffalo Sabres and one against the Carolina Hurricanes).

Those, more than any games, are probably in the must-win category – along with quite a few more.