The late-season trip to Florida was supposed to be a pleasure cruise for a team that had locked up a playoff spot and needed to energize before the real action gets underway.
You see how that worked out.
Instead, the Toronto Maple Leafs have all but been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in a season that has steadily gone downhill after a very good start. They face the Lightning in Tampa Bay Tuesday, the Panthers in Florida Thursday and conclude the season with a game against the Senators in Ottawa Saturday.
Considering the three teams ahead of the Maple Leafs - the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils - all have four games remaining, the odds of Toronto making the playoffs are slim.
Despite captain Dion Phaneuf's assertion they were not outworked by the Jets - many of his teammates did not share that sentiment - a number of players were asked Monday how they could be so flat in a must-win game. They didn't really want to talk about it.
"It's in the past and there's nothing we can do about it," said defenceman Tim Gleason. "We lost the game and lost two points."
Added left-winger Mason Raymond: "Saturday has come and gone and there's nothing we can do about it now. Here we are in a tough spot, but at the end of the day we can't worry about anything else, but tomorrow night's game and getting that win. All we can do is focus on that and that comes from within this room."
All season, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle preached about his team needing to be better in the defensive zone. His players tuned him out. They simply did not make a commitment to defensive zone play and that is a big reason why they will likely miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons.
Toronto is 26th in goals-against average having given up 3.09 per game.
"Our defensive play has been sporadic," Carlyle said. "The amazing stat for us is, usually when your save percentage is where our is, your penalty-killing goes hand-in-hand with that. That's one that has mystified us. Our penalty-killing has been porous over the course of the season yet we have high save percentages. It usually doesn't translate that way.
"Obviously with our defensive zone coverage we have to be a lot more inside and a lot stiffer; not as giving as many opportunities from that critical area."
Gleason, who has struggled of late, agreed.
"It comes down to doing simple things, especially in our own zone we have to shut things down," Gleason said. "We've got a good enough team to put points on the board we just have to find a way to shut things down in our own zone.
"I think we're hoping [the puck] gets out of the zone instead of bearing down and knowing [the puck] is going to get out. It's a group of five that is going to get it out; not just one guy or hoping that it gets out and you go from there. The hoping has to stop."
Phaneuf a big minus of late
For much of the season the Maple Leafs boasted their captain, Dion Phaneuf
, played big minutes against the opposition's top line every night and still had an impressive plus-minus. That, however, has changed. In the past 17 games Phaneuf is minus-18 and plus-3 overall.
was asked how the Maple Leafs could knock off a giant in the Bruins one game and then bottom out against a team that had nothing to play for in the Jets.
"I don't think anybody has that exact answer," Raymond said. "I wish they did. To be a successful team you need to play 60 minutes every night. That inconsistency has hurt us. That is something we don't like...we don't accept and we have to be better at."
Carlyle said he is looking ahead to Tuesday's game against the Lightning.
"We've got to prepare our group to play the game that is necessary for us to have success," he said. "We can't change what just happened to us. We're not proud of what our effort was and the way the game went the other night. Now it's time to flush that and take the steps that are necessary today."
Surgery for Lupul
Left-winger Joffrey Lupul's season of woe continues with the news he'll miss up to three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee
Day off for Bolland
According to Carlyle, Bolland 'rolled' his ankle a few times against the Jets and needed the extra rest. His ice time was down Saturday night because of that.
"He rolls his ankle and then it takes up to ten minutes for him to come back," Carlyle said. "When it happens like it did the other night when we only had 11 forwards dressed it takes you down to ten and it doesn't leave us with many options. I have to rethink if we go with eleven and seven or do we go twelve and six?"
Back to accessibility links