When the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs after their colossal eight-game losing streak cost them a postseason position, they will have learned the hard way the importance of not being swept in a season series against Eastern Conference opponents.
Perhaps the saddest fact of Toronto’s free-fall over the weeks is the team they are now desperately trying to chase down in the standings has owned them this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets currently sit a single point ahead of the Maple Leafs but have six games remaining on their schedule compared to Toronto’s four. The two-game difference is what will likely be the deciding factor earning Columbus a postseason berth, and the Maple Leafs have nobody to blame but themselves.
Toronto has faced the Blue Jackets three times this season, losing all three times and being outscored 13-3 despite being at home for two of three contests in the season series. On Oct. 25 the two teams met for the first time playing their only meeting in Columbus where the Blue Jackets won 5-2. It was a pathetic effort by the Maple Leafs as they were badly outplayed despite entering the contest having lost two of their past three games.
The lack of urgency and motivation against the Blue Jackets appeared to be a result of a lack of respect towards Toronto’s opponent. Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs didn’t do anything to correct their dismal effort when the teams met a month later in Toronto. After being badly outplayed on the road most teams would attempt to rebound and avenge the loss on their home-ice, but the exact opposite happened on Nov. 25 when the Blue Jackets blew the Maple Leafs out of their own building with a 6-0 victory.
To make matters worse, Toronto finally had a chance to avenge their embarrassing efforts against Columbus when the Blue Jackets once again came to town on Mar. 3. The Maple Leafs played their best game against Columbus this season but still fell 2-1 at the end of the night as the Blue Jackets completed the season series sweep over Toronto.
Being directly responsible for giving six points to Columbus, the Maple Leafs have nobody to blame but themselves when they are eliminated from a potential postseason berth. Even one victory over the Blue Jackets would have Toronto currently sitting in a playoff position and would have completely changed the dynamics over the next two weeks.
Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs were never able to properly motivate themselves and avenge previous losses to the Blue Jackets. Now they are learning the hard way why it’s important not to be swept by opponents in their own conference.