When will the Leafs hit rock bottom? Three weeks ago fans thought a 5-0 loss at home at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens was it. Then it was believed to be a 6-2 thrashing a week later at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks and finally a 4-2 embarrassing loss to the tired and reeling Washington Capitals this past Saturday. Heading into last night’s contest against the injury riddled and fatigued Florida Panthers (playing their third game in four nights) the Leafs were thought to be ready to break out of a slide that saw them go 1-7-1. However just 13 seconds after the puck was dropped Marcel Goc capitalized off of a terrible Luke Schenn giveaway and the Leafs were once again behind the 8-ball early. As most fans started reaching for their 8-ball Mike Santorelli added to Toronto’s misery banging home a Jack Skille pass on a 2-1.
Following that early lead – the fifth straight game in which the Leafs went down 2-0 – the game was pretty much over. Toronto tried to once again climb out of the hole they dug for themselves, but against a trapping and defensively conscience team they were never really able to get traction.
Phil Kessel was once again one of the only players going last night and he got hopes up as he wired a laser past Panthers goalie Jose Theodore halfway through the second period to narrow the margin. Clarke MacArthur followed that goal with a terrible hit from behind putting the Panthers on the power play. Santorelli buried his second of the game on the ensuing PP as he outraced and outmuscled Joey Crabb to beat James Reimer.
I will admit that following the second period I began watching re-runs of House on the DIVA channel. During commercial breaks though I was unfortunate to see Jason Garrison make it a 4-1 game after Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf rang a clearing attempt off of David Steckel’s ass. The puck never left the zone and off the scramble Garrison wristed home his 14th of the season. Nikolai Kulemin, Stephen Weiss and Joffrey Lupul traded goals to close out the game.
In the end though the Leafs were never able to dig themselves out of the hole that they created in the opening two minutes. For 58 minutes the Leafs and the Panthers were even, but once again that bad start did in the blue and white.
Following the quick 2-0 deficit I watched the game on mute. Perhaps I have rage issues when it comes to the Leafs, but I could not stand listening to Joe Bowen and Greg Millen talk. Watching the game on mute I didn’t hear the apparent “Fire Wilson” chants that occurred during the third period. Do people really think that this is Wilson’s fault? Where was the leadership last night? Once again where was the emotion? The issue with this team is a lack of core leadership not the coach. Over the last stretch one thing has become apparent over all else the big C should be on Kessel’s blue and white sweater, not Phaneuf’s.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Gregory House - Provided some levity and thought provoking incidents that distracted from the Leafs abysmal showing.
Panthers: Stephen Weiss – Had a big third period goal to extinguish any Leaf comeback attempt, and was a force in his own end. Weiss is a solid and dependable two-way centre. He stepped up his game at both ends of the ice while his team dealt with injuries tonight. Something that is glaringly missing from this Leafs team.