Last night the Toronto Maple Leafs stumbled, just a little. The club lost a game to Detroit, no biggie, it's a long season and you can't win them all. However, a loss to Toronto would have been extremely difficult for Detroit to overcome. The Red Wings had 73 points and two games in hand before the game, trailing Toronto by seven points. That's a major gap, even with two games in hand.
Detroit won, meaning they are five back of Toronto and the final playoff spots, and still have two games in hand. Now, it's more interesting.
Also of interest: the reaction from both sides to the loss. Leaf coach Randy Carlyle was asked to comment on the play of his goalie (James Reimer) and said "I thought he was okay, you know. Just okay." The article is here.
Make no mistake: Carlyle needs Reimer to be brilliant. With starting goalie Jonathan Bernier injured, it's interesting that the coach feels the best motivator for Reimer is a lukewarm public assessment of performance.
Detroit's Mike Babcock is taking a different approach with his team. The Wings are missing most of their depth chart at center and on the PK, with Babcock relying on AHLers. Here's what he said about Landon Ferraro, who played his first NHL game last night.
Babcock: "We're missing penalty killers and he did a real good job in that area. I like his speed. He's got to get stronger, but he's quick."
Toronto is absolutely in the strongest position among the four teams currently fighting for the final two playoff spots in the eastern conference. However, a win last night would have been welcome news, and put the pressure squarely on the other clubs. Now, the odds (via sportsclubstats.com) have Toronto and Columbus in the mid 70% range, and Detroit is 42% (Washington 20.9%).
Toronto fans may feel it's in the bag, but a costly losing streak has the Big Smoke a little nervous. If they can't repair the week with some wins, this might be an interesting race by the weekend.