This is may be the darkest night in Leafland since May 13, 2003. It was a crucial loss to the Montreal Canadiens that took the Maple Leafs from in the mix for the third divisional playoff spot to no longer in control of their own destiny when it comes to making the playoffs in a wildcard position. The Leafs have now lost their third “four-point game” in the span of a week. Crushing stuff.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12
Leafs playoff odds now at 44%

The reality is that the Leafs, with their current flaws, are among the large group of middling teams in the East who aren’t separated by all that much. Unless you’re among  the elite teams who have already built a big cushion by this point, the first 60 or 65 games are all about putting yourself in a position to make the playoffs when the dust settles.

Among that group jousting for playoff spots down the stretch, who is getting good goaltending vs. average goaltending is going to be the major difference maker. With this team’s defensive deficiencies, average goaltending won’t cut it for the Leafs and they’ll sink right out of the spot they’re tenuously holding onto. Few live and die by their goaltending as much as the Leafs; it was their biggest differentiator and had them situated to take over 2nd in the Division a little over a week ago. Now, they’re on the verge of falling out of the playoffs with 10 games to go. There was very little between the Habs and Leafs tonight, much as there was little between the Leafs and Wings on Tuesday. The margins are so thin in these games. James Reimer has to step up and stop two of those goals he let in tonight. Simple as that.

The other disappointing part is the poor PK from the Leafs on the only penalty it had to kill half way through the third. Playoff teams get that kill. Instead — with no pressure on the points, poor clearing attempts by McClement and a foul up by Phaneuf, who tried to be too patient on the play — the Leafs didn’t and it cost them at least one vital point.

It’s hard to find the positives in a night like this, but the Leafs played a pretty good game overall. Lupul and Kadri scored a couple of nice goals. Jake Gardiner had himself a hell of a game. There was something to like about Bolland’s return, too. You could tell he set out to make sure he engaged in the game with some physical play, and while he looks like he’s still down half a step, much of his game is rooted in savvy play. He should be able to help this team in the final 10, hopefully by giving them three contributing forward lines. He missed nearly 60 games and yet he seemed ready to go from the first shift onward. Granted, Carlyle eased him in with 9:01 TOI tonight.

It might be worth putting Bolland with, say, Bodie and Kulemin on a line to start the game so the Leafs can set the tone better than they have been off the puck drop.

Not a tonne of anaylsis tonight, for it was a downer and one all of us fans are going to need to sleep on to fully digest and put behind us.  12 out of 20 points isn’t a yeoman’s feat if the Leafs get their act together soon, soon as in 18 hours from now, but it’s no longer fully in the Leafs’ control. Jonathan Bernier is reportedly not going to make the trip to Jersey.

Fenwick chart for 2014-03-22 Canadiens 4 at Maple Leafs 3EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-22 Canadiens 4 at Maple Leafs 3Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens

Toronto Maple Leafs_vs_Montreal Canadiens Boxscore

James Reimer (11-12-1)L36320.88958:40:00
Troy Bodie009:33020000100
Dave Bolland009:01-110813000
Tyler Bozak1018:58020990001
David Clarkson008:54-210001100
Cody Franson0024:39:00-150006011
Jake Gardiner0022:37020003003
Tim Gleason0018:00-110004111
Carl Gunnarsson0014:42-100001110
Nazem Kadri1017:15040371010
Phil Kessel0120:16030010100
Nikolai Kulemin0018:16-110113122
Joffrey Lupul1120:18130002210
Jay McClement0013:50-100984100
Colton Orr002:32000002001
Dion Phaneuf0020:44-120003202
Mason Raymond0216:41-130001020
Morgan Rielly0019:18020001111
James van Riemsdyk0021:46-152102020
Carey Price (29-18-5)W36330.91760:00:00
Francis Bouillon0025:10:00-100002111
Rene Bourque1111:52160000000
Daniel Briere0013:20110461011
David Desharnais0116:260221080020
Lars Eller006:37010420100
Alexei Emelin0020:52030003311
Alex Galchenyuk0016:38110001110
Brendan Gallagher0015:26110000000
Brian Gionta1114:30130020011
Andrei Markov0124:07:00150001211
Travis Moen0013:47000000101
Douglas Murray0010:13200004501
Max Pacioretty1017:29040000200
Tomas Plekanec1020:591129131110
P.K. Subban0126:14:00030000201
Thomas Vanek0016:43020000000
Mike Weaver0113:24210002400
Dale Weise0012:25020003013
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