The Boston Bruins on Saturday had a chance to all but end the race for second place in the Atlantic Division.
But after Boston’s disappointing 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden, the Toronto Maple Leafs now are very much alive in the hunt for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
NHL standings and tiebreaker jargon can be maddening, but we’ll do our best to lay it out in layman’s terms.
Prior to Saturday’s game against Florida, the Bruins led the Leafs by six points (103-97), with each team having five games remaining on their respective schedules. Toronto will square off with the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
There’s also ROW (regular/overtime wins) to consider. Serving as the first tiebreaker, ROW accounts for all of a given team’s victories, minus wins that came in shootouts. The Bruins and Leafs entered Saturday tied in ROW at 45. The Bruins own all the subsequent tiebreakers, so ROW is one of the last hopes for Toronto.
All of this is a long way of saying that, in a perfect world, the Bruins would have won and the Leafs would have lost Saturday. That would have given Boston a 105-97 lead with only four games remaining. In that scenario, the only way for the Leafs to earn home-ice would have been to win out, and for Boston to lose out. The two teams would have finished tied in points, but the Leafs would have had a superior ROW, assuming their final four wins wouldn’t have come in shootouts. Translation: All hell would have had to break lose for Boston to be on the road in the first round. The Bruins could have wrapped up home-ice with just a single point over their final four games.
Still with us? Good.
Boston’s loss now gives Toronto a slightly more manageable path to home-ice advantage. Should it win Saturday night, Toronto would trail by just four points with four games remaining. That’s a tough gap to make up in four games, to be sure, but its doable.
At the end of the day, the Bruins still are in good shape. They just could’ve been golden with a win over an inferior team Saturday afternoon.
Here are some other notes from Bruins-Panthers:
— Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk made his return Saturday. The Boston University product had been out since March 10 with an arm injury.
— Walpole, Mass., native Chris Wagner was presented the NESN 7th Player Award before puck drop. Wagner is enjoying a career year with 12 goals and six assists through 75 games played.
— Noel Acciari scored the Bruins’ only goal, his sixth of the season.
— Tuukka Rask had a rough afternoon, stopping only 19 of 22 shots. The Boston netminder now has lost four of his last six games.