The Toronto Maple Leafs failed in their quest to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in a decade when they lost 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
After the Leafs’ lackluster performance, winger and alternate captain Phil Kessel was willing to take the blame for the team’s embarrassing finish.
“I haven’t been good enough for the last 15 games. I need to be better,” Kessel said Tuesday night, per TSN’s Jonas Siegel.
“Obviously I’m really disappointed and I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down.”
“It was a long year and we fought hard,” Kessel added, per The Globe and Mail. “These last 10 games here we just didn’t get it done.”
Kessel deserves some of the blame for the Leafs’ fall, but he’s not the main source of failure. He was a bit inconsistent, but the veteran winger is tied for fifth in the NHL in scoring (80 points) and ranks fifth in goals (37). However, Kessel has scored just five goals since March 1 (19 games), including one in his last seven games.
Following an impressive 3-1 road win over a talented Anaheim Ducks team March 10, Toronto went 3-11 in its next 14 games to go from being in one of the three Northeast Division playoff spots to mathematically eliminated from contention. That includes an eight-game losing streak from March 16 through March 29.
Leafs got only four points in the last 26 days. Eight teams passed them in that time.—
James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 09, 2014
The Leafs have missed the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons. Their one trip to the postseason during that span ended in heartbreak when they blew a three-goal, third-period lead to the Boston Bruins and lost 5-4 in overtime in Game 7 of last year’s first-round series.