Many a Leafs fan, critic, and writer has observed that – win or lose – the team is at least fun to watch.
That sentiment was not echoed on Tuesday night, at any time during Toronto’s atrocious showing in Florida, a 7-2 train wreck of a defeat at the BB&T Center.
After only 18 seconds into the game, the mark at which Aleksander Barkov scored the opening goal past Frederik Andersen, it was apparent that Mike Babcock’s squad was ill-prepared to try and extend their three-game winning streak.
The outing became a comedy of errors, none more evident that Nikita Zaitsev blowing a tire – twice – on the same play during a Leafs man advantage, the end result being a shorthanded goal by Colton Sceviour.
The loss was a total team effort. The normally reliable Andersen was shaky during the opening period, allowing three goals, and Curtis McElhinney – who got the assignment to start the second frame – fared no better.
There was the haphazard line changing of both Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri on separate plays, leading to Panthers goals.
Quite simply, there was a complete lack of engagement by anyone in a blue and white sweater, pitted against a home team that had lost its previous six outings.
“We were poor,” coach Mike Babcock told reporters. “Our decisions – I mean, right from the second faceoff of the game, we just went through that this morning, we just didn’t do anything right. When you’re not prepared and you don’t compete at a high enough level you get fed your lunch and that was us today.”
Leo Komarov and Nikita Soshnikov had Toronto’s goals.
Meanwhile an overtime win by the New York Islanders nudged Toronto out of the second wild card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Leafs have little time to regroup as they head to Tampa to face the Lightning on Thursday.