April 08 2014 08:37PM
Once the final puck crossed the line in Columbus, this became a do or die game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They had no choice. They had to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite cracks at two different goaltenders, they couldn't get anything into the back of the net, lost 2-0, and are now mathematically eliminated from being able to make the playoffs.
Tampa's first goal comes from a play that doesn't involve the glaring positional errors that the Leafs usually show on nights like these.
What is a problem, however, is that they were caught being incredibly passive; with no real attempts to limit Ondrej Palat until the last second, where Carl Gunnarsson swings his stick out, possibly deflecting it (it's a bit hard to tell).
The second goal comes on the powerplay. Steven Stamkos goes for a shot, it doesn't hit the net, bounces off the boards, and straight to Palat on the other side. It almost looks like a set play, except for the part where that's completely unpredictable and involves the best sniper in the world taking an intentionally bad shot.
The last one was totally Reimer's fault.
Why The Leafs Lost
I think it stings even more that Toronto's elimination game came from a straight up, honest to god, "it just didn't go our way" situation. They took twenty eight shots. They had a few good scoring opportunities. James Reimer was very good. There were moments of solid play, The second goal is due to an opportunistic and lucky play after a faceoff. Of all of the games where the Leafs have been dominated, of all of the games where the Leafs have pulled out something magic in the last seconds, this was a painfully generic loss.
With massive importance.
Player wise, I'd probably point to Jake Gardiner; he took 5 shots, made a few solid defensive plays and Looked to be on the right side of the game throughout. But we'll get sentimental and give it to anybody who entered this game and didn't feel that it was "over" until it mathematically was.
These last few weeks, whether you expected this team to be a bottom feeder, bubble team, or dominant, have been flat out demoralizing. The Leafs have been absent in so many regards of the game; the scorers have stopped scoring, the defence is even more confusing than ever, and the goaltenders, while certainly not even close to blame-worthy, haven't been at their best.
If you stuck through that, hoping that somehow, some way, they'd get into the playoffs kicking and screaming, that's a commendable amount of optimism. I mean that.