In the past five games it has mostly been the same old, same old fall behind early, work hard to get back into the game, press in the dying minutes, and then lose. Bottom line... five straight losses.
Just like they had done in the previous four games, Toronto fell behind -- this time 3-0 -- to the Devils in New Jersey on Sunday night and then nearly forced overtime, but ultimately fell 3-2
Nearly. Too little, too late.
"We've had lots of conversation and lots of contact; that's for sure," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle when asked how he might help settle the rough waters. "The bottom line is it's a results-orientated sport and we have to find a way to stop the bleeding and do everything in our power to regroup. When we do play in stretches we look like a hockey club that can play with anybody, but then we're inept in some areas."
It is the first time since 2009 the Maple Leafs have dropped five straight games in regulation time and in doing so, they have further jeopardized making their second straight appearance in the playoffs.
If that isn't enough, they get to host Stanley Cup favourite St. Louis Blues Tuesday night before meeting the red-hot Flyers Friday in Philadelphia and then hosting the Detroit Red Wings Saturday. Yikes!
Once again Leafs starting goalie James Reimer had a rough night. It was certainly not all his fault, but he failed to make the big save when his team needed it and was pulled after Toronto fell behind 3-0; replaced by Marlies call-up Drew MacIntyre.
It was MacIntyre's fifth relief appearance in the NHL; his last coming Nov. 25, 2011 when he played 35:31 when he stopped 15 of 16 shots he faced. He has yet to start a game in NHL.
It's the media's fault
Carlyle was accused of throwing Reimer under the bus last week when, after a loss to the Red Wings, he responded to a question about how his goalie played with, "I thought he was okay...just okay."
Those were his words; not the media's.
Yet when Carlyle was asked if pulling Reimer Sunday night was a move that reflected how the team was playing and not a reference to Reimer's play, he wimped out.
"I'm not making any comments on goaltenders thanks to you guys," he said.
For the seventh game in a row the Maple Leafs fell behind. On the opening goal Toronto got caught on a bad line change which allowed the Devils to break in two-on-one, but the bottom line is Damien Brunner's shot to Reimer's glove side was a routine shot, but Reimer whiffed on it and put his team in a hole... again.
If that wasn't bad enough, the Devils upped it to 2-0 at 1:18 of the second period when veteran Patrik Elias broke in alone, froze Reimer with a fake, and deposited an easy backhander into the net.
And before that goal was even announced, defenceman Jon Merrill scored on a slap shot from the left point. It was just 32 seconds after the Elias goal.
Goodbye James; hello Drew.
This is not a new storyline. Falling behind early has been dragging the Maple Leafs down and out of the playoffs. Heading into the game against New Jersey, Toronto had trailed in each of their six previous games.
How bad have the Maple Leafs starts been? Very bad indeed.
It started in San Jose March 11 when the Sharks took a 1-0 lead at 3:58 of the first period. The Maple Leafs lost that game 6-2.
Two nights later The Kings led 2-0 by 16:05 of the opening period in Los Angeles. Bernier left the game after the first period and Reimer played superbly over the final 40 minutes in a Toronto victory.
On March 16 in Washington the Capitals led 3-0 at 8:44 of the first. Toronto lost.
Then on March 18 the Red Wings led 1-0 after 12:50 of the first and 2-0 by 2:06 of the third. Toronto lost.
The next night at home the Maple Leafs fell behind 1-0 just 59 seconds into the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Toronto lost.
Finally, Montreal held a 2-0 lead after 6:52 of the first Saturday night. You guessed it, Toronto lost.
The Maple Leafs responded to the goalie switch by pulling to within two goals when centre Tyler Bozak tipped home a Morgan Rielly slapper at 5:26 of the second.
The Maple Leafs, trailing 3-1, were handed a two-man advantage in the second, but failed to cash in. Not only that, four seconds before the second penalty was about to expire, Toronto's Nazem Kadri took a boarding penalty.
Phil Kessel made it close when he drove hard to the net and drilled home his 36th of the season at 18:29 of the third and the Maple Leafs pressed for the equalizer, but they fell short again.
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