CALGARY, AB -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are in do-or-die mode.
The Maple Leafs have hit its longest losing streak since a skid from Oct. 28-Nov. 13, 2010 and it comes at the worst time for the team. With the playoffs just weeks away, Toronto has fallen out of the final wild card spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
This is the first time the Maple Leafs has not held a playoff spot since Jan. 14. During the drought, Toronto has been outscored 32-19 and leading scorer Phil Kessel has been limited to four points. The Maple Leafs currently sit two points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four points back of the Detroit Red Wings for wild card spots, but Toronto also has to leapfrog the Washington Capitals, too, who sit a point ahead.
Of the teams fighting for the final playoff spot, Toronto has the fewest games remaining, making Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames a must-win for the team if the look to return to the playoffs for a second year in a row.
This Season: 36-32-8, 80 points (10th in East)
Last Season: 26-17-5, 57 points (5th in East)
Notable Injuries: Defenceman Paul Ranger (concussion) is out indefinitely. Forward Phil Kessel (bruised right foot) is a game time decision.
Flames Season Series Record: 0-1-0
In his third season with the Leafs, Gardiner has found his groove in Toronto. His 10 goals this season lead all Maple Leafs blueliners and is a career high for the 23-year-old. His 18 assists give him 28 points, two short of tying his career-high in points. In Toronto’s past four games, Gardiner has six assists and is a plus-3 over that span.
Since returning from a lower-body injury on March 25, Bernier has struggled between the pipes in Toronto, giving up four goals in each of his last three starts. After making 44 saves in his return from injury against the St. Louis Blues, Bernier has made 25 and 24 save respectively in back to back losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Red Wings. In his three games since returning from injury, Bernier has posted a .886 save percentage and has a goals against average of 4.00.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Midway through the season, Kessel’s name was being tossed around as a potential Hart Trophy nominee due to having one of his most productive seasons as a pro. His 36 goals are one short of tying his career high, while he is four assists short of that plateau and five points from tying his 82-point record set during the 2011-2012 season. During the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Kessel was named best forward, posting five goals and three assists for eight points in six games played.
JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK
Van Riemsdyk is having a career year in his second season with the Maple Leafs. He has set career highs in all stats, including goals (29), assist (29), points (58), and PIMs (50). He was also named to USA’s Olympic team, where he scored a goal and added five helpers playing again with Kessel.
Raymond has been a thorn in the side of the Flames his entire NHL career, having scored 11 of his 99 goals against the Flames. The Cochrane, AB native is having one of his most productive seasons in his first year with Toronto, being just nine points shy of his career high set during the 2009-10 season. Raymond currently has 19 goals and 25 assists this year and scored the game winning goal in a 4-2 win for the Leafs when they last played Calgary on October 30.