Maple Leafs Clinch Playoff Berth; Latest 2021 NHL Standings, Playoff Picture

·3 min read
The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their first goal by Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews(34) during an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Peter Power)
The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their first goal by Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews(34) during an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Peter Power)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are headed to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

Toronto clinched its postseason spot Wednesday with a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Here is a look at how Toronto stacks up to the rest of the league in the updated playoff standings.

North Division

Toronto Maple Leafs: 67 points (31-13-5)

Edmonton Oilers: 58 points (28-16-2)

Winnipeg Jets: 57 points (27-18-3)

Montreal Canadiens: 51 points (21-18-9)

West Division

Vegas Golden Knights: 70 points (34-11-2)

Colorado Avalanche: 66 points (31-11-4)

Minnesota Wild: 65 points (31-14-3)

St. Louis Blues: 50 points (22-19-6)

Central Division

Carolina Hurricanes: 71 points (32-10-7)

Florida Panthers: 69 points (32-14-5)

Tampa Bay Lightning: 68 points (33-14-2)

Nashville Predators: 56 points (27-22-2)

East Divison

Washington Capitals: 68 points (32-13-4)

Pittsburgh Penguins: 67 points (32-15-3)

New York Islanders: 63 points (29-15-5)

Boston Bruins: 62 points (28-14-6)

Whether the Maple Leafs can end their title drought will be one of the biggest storylines of the entire playoffs. After all, the proud franchise last won a Stanley Cup during the 1966-67 season and has fallen well short of challenging to change that in recent years.

It lost in the first round three straight years prior to last season when the qualifying round was put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto didn't even make it past that qualifying round, losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games.

That was the backdrop as this season started with a division realignment to minimize travel during the pandemic.

Toronto found itself in the North Division with the other six Canadian teams, which wasn't a problem out of the gates.

The Maple Leafs started 18-4-2 and built enough cushion to allow for brief losing streaks during the season. While those came, such as when they went 1-6 in their next seven and lost five in a row in April (two of which came in overtime), they remained in a position where it was just a matter of time before they clinched a playoff spot as they battled for a division crown.

A major reason for that is the play of Auston Matthews, who has lived up to his reputation as one of the most skilled players in the league.

The Hart Memorial Trophy contender has anchored Toronto's offense as a premier goal scorer who has 59 points on 35 goals and 24 assists. He scored a goal in Wednesday's win over Montreal.

"He's playing at a different level right now," teammate Alex Kerfoot said in February, per Jackie Spiegel of Sporting News. "It's fun to watch. We're lucky to have him on our team. It seems like he's playing a different game than most guys out there. So, it's fun to watch. I don't have any more adjectives other than what you guys have probably been using, but, yeah, he's playing at an elite, elite level."

Throw in Mitchell Marner and John Tavares, and Toronto has enough firepower to compete against any team in the league during the playoffs.

Fans who have been looking for a title for decades are desperate for more than just a competitive team, though, as the Maple Leafs attempt to make even the second round for the first time since 2003-04.