For the second season in a row, the Toronto Maple Leafs have officially clinched a playoff spot.
It’s official: The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And ironically enough, they owe many thanks to the Ottawa Senators.
A successful penalty shot from Jean-Gabriel Pageau officially sealed the deal, as the Sens defeated the Florida Panthers in overtime. In one of life’s many ironies, former Leafs goaltender James Reimer allowed the aforementioned goal — as such, Toronto fans owe their previous netminder some love, for he continues to help out his old team.
It’s been an unforgettable season for the Buds. Wednesday night’s game against the Panthers allowed the team to set a franchise record in regular season wins (46). Goals from Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau and James van Riemsdyk rendered the night unforgettable, as the Leafs’ flashy young talent combined with the old guard and more recent acquisitions to make history. JVR’s goal was particularly memorable, as the veteran winger found the back of the net for the 200th time in his career.
The Leafs are also the only NHL team to have three separate players record 30 or more goals in the 2017-18 season. van Riemsdyk leads the way with 35, while Matthews and Nazem Kadri have each netted 30.
For head coach Mike Babcock, however, this is only the beginning. Addressing the media after the game, Babcock was friendly but refreshingly blunt, as he stated, “I think those things are all great, but you know, we’ve got bigger plans”.
For now, Leafs fans deserve to celebrate. That the Buds would make the playoffs for a second season in a row has been fairly well known for quite some time, but it’s always refreshing to see aspirations translated into reality. Above all, the dreadful 2015-16 season is looking more and more like a distant memory with each passing win.
Just remember: The real work is only beginning.