The Hidden Problem with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals

January 17th, 2014 by Jonathan Willis Leave a reply »

The final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference this afternoon are inhabited by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals, with 53 and 52 points, respectively. Both teams sat significantly higher in the standings not all that long ago, and both teams are extremely vulnerable.

Some of that vulnerability is due to the pack of vultures circling just a short distance behind them. Four teams in the East are currently both a) outside the postseason and b) within four points of Washington, and that doesn’t include the Carolina Hurricanes, who have 47 points.

But some of that vulnerability is because there’s a very good case to be made that both the Capitals and Leafs are imposters simply masquerading as playoff teams.

There are a lot of ways to demonstrate that point, but the simplest is this. Imagine that the regular season were played in as close to playoff conditions as was possible—in other words, we remove the shootout from the equation, and all post-overtime games ended in ties. What would the standings look like?

Instantly, a lot of people—and not all of them Lea ...

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