Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Worst Losses of 2013
Toronto Maple Leafs 5 Worst Losses of 2013
This 2013 year was a successful one for the Toronto Maple Leafs as the team finally returned to the playoffs for the first time since two lockouts had come and gone.
It took nearly 10 years, but the Maple Leafs finally snapped their playoff drought and although the season might have ended in historic fashion, the fan base can be still proud of the positive steps their team took in 2013. To help add support making the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 48-game season wasn't a fluke, Toronto will enter 2014 holding an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
In 2013, the Maple Leafs signed their two most important players in Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf to long-term extensions. The cornerstones of the franchise easily played the best hockey of their career this past year, showing significant improvements at both ends of the ice. Toronto will still need Kessel and Phaneuf to reach additional levels as players if the team wants to take the next step and become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, but 2013 was a good step forward in moving closer to bringing a championship back to Toronto for the first time since 1967.
However, with every high in the past 12 months came just as many lows. When Joffrey Lupul was lighting up the stat sheet, he’d quickly suffer an injury. When it looked like Nazem Kadri was taking the next step as a player, he’d regress by continuously making the same mistakes. When Jake Gardiner looked like he was becoming the next Brian Leetch, he lost all his confidence. When the fan base was excited about David Clarkson’s debut, he got himself suspended for 10 games.
And for every big win came nearly just as many painful losses. The type of defeats that’d put a Maple Leaf fan in a bad mood the next day and sometimes for multiple days. With 2013 coming to a close, here are Toronto’s top five worst losses of the past year.
5. Dec. 12 at St. Louis Blues
24 hours prior to traveling to face the St. Louis Blues, the Maple Leafs played what coach Randy Carlyle called one of the best games of their season when they lost at home 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings. However, if Maple Leaf fans were hoping there'd be a carryover of the same effort they saw the night before, that type of wishful thinking was quickly shattered just five minutes into the contest. David Backes gave the Blues the early lead while Jaden Schwartz and Derek Roy would pack on before the first period could end, chasing James Reimer from the net. St. Louis would go on to win 6-3.
It didn’t help that Phaneuf was serving the final game of a suspension and was forced to miss the contest. It also didn’t help Clarkson would get suspended after the contest for elbowing a player in the head. However, there’s no denying the cherry on the disaster cake for Toronto was when former Maple Leaf Alex Steen picked up two points in the contest while continuing to have a career year. The loss would be Toronto's third straight and eighth in 10 games.
4. Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals Game 3 vs Boston Bruins
On May 6, the Maple Leafs played the first playoff game in Toronto for the first time since Apr. 30, 2004 when they hosted the Boston Bruins for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. Unfortunately, former Maple Leaf draft pick Tuukka Rask decided he wasn’t going to give the local fan base anything to cheer about when he made 45 saves leading the Bruins to a 5-2 victory and 2-1 series lead. It was bad enough the Maple Leafs lost badly with thousands of fans surrounding the arena outside to show their support for the club, but the fact they lost because the guy they traded in order to acquire Andrew Raycroft stood on his head in the win was like adding fire to the wounds.
The Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci line combined for eight points in the contest as many began to wonder if the series would end quickly after Boston dominated the third game of the series.
3. Nov. 25 vs Columbus Blue Jackets
In one of the most pathetic efforts in recent history, the Maple Leafs were blown out of their own arena on Nov. 25 when the Columbus Blue Jackets embarrassed the hometown team with a 6-0 loss. To add insult to injury, Lupul was lost for weeks after the game with a groin injury. What makes matters worst for Toronto is that they had already been blown out by the Blue Jackets earlier in the season when they visited Columbus. A month prior on Oct. 25, the Maple Leafs lost 5-2 to the Blue Jackets in Columbus in a game where they lost Tyler Bozak for a month. In fact, Bozak’s first game back from the injury he suffered on Oct. 25 was when the Blue Jackets were in town on Nov. 25 in the game Lupul went down. Thankfully for Toronto, they don’t have to face Columbus in the second half of the season, so they don’t have to worry about getting blown out and losing one of their top-six forwards.
2. Nov. 2 at Vancouver Canucks
On Nov. 2, Toronto’s 10-4 start to the new season was forever changed as October ended and November began with a devastating loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Heading into the contest, the Maple Leafs were 2-0 on their Western Canada road trip after sweeping Alberta with back-to-back wins. The media was hyping Toronto visiting Vancouver as the showdown between who could be claimed as Canada’s best team, with many favoring Toronto’s chances entering the contest. However, the Canucks left no doubt as to whom the best Canadian team in the league was as they wiped the floor with the Maple Leafs in a 4-0 blowout. What made things worst was Dave Bolland was cut on the leg by Zack Kassian’s skate and with Bolland laying on the ice in pain, Kassian scored the second goal of the game and gave Vancouver all the momentum. Bolland was forced to leave the arena on a stretcher and is still out of the lineup and not expected back until closer to the Olympic break.
All of Toronto’s positivity with their impressive start to the year went down the drain on this night as things have never been the same with the club. Bolland’s void in the lineup has never been replaced as he was one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs were having so much success in the first month of the season.
1. Game 7
Just mention the words Game 7 to a Maple Leaf fan and it instantly provides a painful memory that won’t fully heal until the team can win at least one, if not two playoff rounds. By now, everybody and their non-hockey watching distant relative know the story of how Toronto collapsed in the final 10 minutes of the seventh game of their series with Boston. The Maple Leafs owned a 4-1 lead and appeared destined for the second round of the playoffs only to fall 5-4 and break the hearts of their entire fan base after coming back to force a deciding game after being down 3-1 in the series.
It was the ultimate tease for the Maple Leafs as their recent history with Boston saw the Bruins routinely destroy Toronto in the regular season. Year after year, Boston would blowout the Maple Leafs when the division rivals met and in the first four games of the playoff series, it looked like Toronto was badly outmatched. Then the Maple Leafs won back-to-back games and provided hope for a desperate hockey-crazed market. Once Nazem Kadri scored Toronto’s fourth goal of the game, the Maple Leaf fan base reached a high it hadn’t experienced in a decade when they last won a playoff round. Then in 10 minutes, that high became a historic low as no team in history had ever blown that big of a lead in the playoffs.
Analysts during the game had Boston’s coach fired along with multiple Bruins traded when they were down three goals and then as quickly as Patrice Bergeron can win a face-off, the Maple Leafs were planning their summer. What happened in May of 2013 won’t be forgotten any time soon, but at least Toronto can head into 2014 looking to make a fresh start and attempt to repair painful playoff memories.