Leafs drop season finale, will face Caps in first round

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have home ice against the Blue Jackets. Toronto has 95, but have to win or lose in overtime or a shootout to the Blue Jackets because Boston wins the tiebreaker with 42 regulation/overtime wins (ROW) compared to the Leafs 39.

Matthews, 19, became the fourth National Hockey League rookie ever to reach the 40-goal mark in a season prior to turning 20, joining Dale Hawerchuk, Mario Lemieux and Sylvain Turgeon in that select club. The spotlight will be brighter in the playoffs, but he has responded to every challenge so far.

Washington Capitals' Justin Williams, center, and his teammates watch a replay of his goal which was eventually disallowed during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Boston, Saturday, April 8, 2017. He has averaged 4.6 shots on goal per game over his past 18 games after averaging 3.6 in the first 64 games. In fact, five total Canadian teams will be in the postseason this year - a huge step up from icing none last season. It's a great time to be a Toronto sports fan.

After fellow rising star John Gibson joined the lineup and split the net with him, though, the Ducks made the executive decision to protect themselves from the upcoming expansion draft and dealt Andersen to the Leafs. "I think the last two games, we played a little tight". Van Riemsdyk finished with six shots on goal for the second straight game. After taking some time to adjust, Shattenkirk has taken the Capitals power play to another level. Both teams have 94 points with one game remaining, and if they remain tied when the season ends, the Flames will have the advantage due to their 41-39 edge in ROW. I told the coaches at the start of the year if we got in it was going to be tomorrow in game 82. Toronto was the NHL's last-place team a year ago and drafted Auston Matthews first overall.

In recent years, the Penguins were typically the more desperate team, while the Maple Leafs were mere hours away from honing their golf games.

The Bolts have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Fehr is sidelined with an undisclosed injury. "Play your shift, come back, take a deep breath, get a drink of water and play your next one".

"No space. Zero. Battle for every inch of ice, from the opening faceoff to the end", said Babcock, who's coached 144 playoff games in the National Hockey League. It led to a scoring chance for Leafs rookie Auston Matthews, but Fleury was able to scramble back in enough time to make the save. Then the Blue Jackets took at 3-2 lead on Cam Atkinson's 35th goal of the season, and that ended up as the final score.

And the nerves the Leafs might have been battling in the past week as they tried to nail down a spot, how will those compare to competing in the playoffs? Kuznetsov had 59 points (19 goals, 40 assists) this season after getting off to a slow start and needs to have more of an impact in the playoffs to help keep the pressure off the Capitals' first line.

"It doesn't matter what Pittsburgh does, we've got to get ourselves right to play and play like we normally do and don't let the excitement of the moment or the energy of the moment or what we're trying to do get in the way of who we are", Toronto coach Mike Babcock said on the heels of Thursday's 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay, which left his team needing to win one of its final two games to reach the playoffs. That, combined with a potential Maple Leafs loss, would have set up an incredible set of games for Sunday.

Ever since the Washington Capitals clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the big question has been who they will face.

None compare to the National Hockey League stage though, especially at this point in the year when the intensity dials up and every little play seems to matter.