MONTREAL (CP) - If the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs for a second year in a row, it will most likely come down to the points they gave their Eastern Conference rivals in shootouts this season.
The Leafs dropped their seventh shootout of the year Saturday in a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, and they have only four wins all year in the tiebreaker.
More importantly, however, is that the Leafs have been in seven shootouts this year with the four other teams battling for the last two playoff spots in the east, and Toronto has only won one of them.
"The shootout is a crapshoot, we know that," said Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "We haven't had great success in the shootout, but once it comes it's almost a fifty-fifty chance. It's out of your control almost."
The Leafs are 1-3 in shootouts with the Canadiens this season, they've lost two against the New York Islanders and once against the New York Rangers.
Sundin was the only Leaf who was able to score Saturday as Kyle Wellwood, Yanic Perreault and Darcy Tucker were kept off the board.
Wellwood doesn't agree with his captain's view on shootouts.
"It's a little more than a flip of the coin," he said.
"There are some teams that are great at it, and we have to find a way to be one of those teams."
Toronto's problems in the shootout haven't really been because of the shooters, as they are scoring at a 31.8 per cent rate, just under the league average of 32.7 per cent entering Saturday's games.
Toronto's opponents are scoring on 37.2 per cent of their shots this year, and Andrew Raycroft is now allowing shooters to hit on 40.6 per cent of their shots after giving up two out of four on Saturday.
"We slugged it out right until the end," Raycroft said, "they just made two good plays in the shootout."
And that may be the difference between a playoff spot and another early summer for the Leafs.