With their magic number down to four points, this could be the evening the Maple Leafs clinch their first Stanley Cup playoff appearance in nine years.
To do so, they’d have to beat the Washington Capitals and hope that the Winnipeg Jets lose at home to Tampa Bay. That would be two points gained by the Leafs combined with two points squandered by the Jets — the only team outside the top eight with a chance of catching Toronto.
The Capitals, meanwhile, are also trying to say abreast of the Jets — a challenger for the Southeast Division crown and the third seed in the playoffs.
“Now we play Toronto, and we’re looking forward to playing this team,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “It’s big points for us and for them as well.”
Perhaps with an eye to how important the game is, the Maple Leafs took the morning off — no morning skate.
Not a bad idea, especially after a 2-0 win on Monday over New Jersey, another game in which the opponent outshot Toronto, another game in which James Reimer outshone the goalie at the other end — this time Martin Brodeur.
This 2013 version of the Toronto Maple Leafs has proven to be incredibly resilient, finding ways to win when most are expecting them to lose.
“They do a lot of things well,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said of the Maple Leafs. “They’ve really improved. They have upgraded a lot. They’re a different team. They’re displaying a lot of confidence.”
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle may not like a lot of what he sees — especially when the team is outshot and out-chanced — but it’s hard to criticize a winning formula.