I've come to realize that my mathematics professors at my alma mater failed to mention that the theories of probability and statistics aren't universal after all. They immediately cease to be valid once you walk through the gates of the Air Canada Center. You see, it just doesn't matter how mathematically improbable it is for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make the playoffs this year. There's an attitude among the players in blue and white that there's still a chance. This attitude isn't the positive and inspiring variety that you'd come to expect from sports stories like Rudy or even The Mighty Ducks (seriously, I just referenced that movie). Rather, it's the same sort of numb and robotic response we're used to from this team. The words tell us that this club still has its eyes set on the post-season, but there's no substance to back those words up.
It isn't completely fair to throw bricks of negative criticism at the Leafs. After all, Toronto has gone 10-4-3 since the beginning of February. They've played with a genuine sense of urgency, but there's only so much a team that has Alex Ponikarovsky pegged as their #2 left winger can do against a goaltender like Martin Brodeur. The two losses against New Jersey last week all but silenced the most fervent Leafs fans' prayers for a playoff berth this season. There hasn't been a lack of effort from the Leafs over the last 4 weeks, that much is true. However, it's beginning to look like "too little, too late" is what the media will describe their late season play this summer.
That still doesn't explain the atmosphere of false hope in the Leafs' dressing room. While no one would expect a professional athlete to openly admit his respective team has lost any hope for the season, there should at least be some tone of accountability in his voice. That's what puzzles most fans in Leafs Nation. From Mats Sundin down to Kris Newbury, there is no explanation as to why this season has turned out so mediocre. Since the beginning of the year, there has been talk about how injuries have plagued this team and how they've been behind the 8-ball from the get-go. It's hard to buy into that reasoning considering that most NHL teams have, at one point or another, been dealt the same hand. Injuries are a reality of professional sports and shouldn't be used as an excuse for poor performance.
No one outside of the Leafs' locker room knows for certain if this team truly believes it has a chance to make the post-season. They have 12 games left and need to win 11 of those just to squeeze into the big dance. It's odds like that which make most fans scratch their heads when head coach Paul Maurice confidently states that "they feel there are enough games left in the schedule for us to make a serious run at a playoff spot".
There's a old Probability and Statistics textbook sitting somewhere in my parents' house. I'm more than willing to send it to Maurice...you know, just for reference. He might find something useful he could share with his team.