Let’s not bother with a debate on the future of the shootout today. It’ll just read like a lament for the home team here in Toronto anyway.
Moreover, when it comes to the Maple Leafs and their playoff chances, you can look at four shootout losses in the last 17 days as evidence of a major failing, and attempted backhands on five of six tries against Ryan Miller last week in Buffalo were surely an exercise in silliness.
And doesn’t it seem like James Reimer looks behind him after every single shootout attempt?
All that said, those four SO losses also delivered a critical four points in the standings, points the Leafs weren’t getting with any regularity in the opening six weeks of the seasons. We can discuss the logic of the three-point game all we want, but if you want to be a playoff team, those three-pointers can kill you if you’re not getting your share.
That point last night in Boston - and what reasonable Leaf fan wouldn’t be thrilled with three of four points against the Bruins over three days? - enabled the Leafs to stay ahead of the New Jersey Devils, who earned a point in a shootout loss of their own to Ottawa.
If the Leafs don’t qualify for post-season play, it won’t be because of their ineptitude in the shootout, although obviously that’s not helping.
It will almost certainly instead hinge on how the Leafs do against teams sitting in the standings just below them, including five of seven matches over the next two weeks.
Start with Florida tonight and Carolina on Thursday, both at home. Then there’s the Flyers next week, followed by a home-and-home with the Rangers early the following week.
There’s 10 points available right there against teams below them. Get eight of those points and Randy Carlyle’s group will have gone a long, long way to ending this franchise’s playoff drought.