Proclaiming the 2019-20 season as anything other than a failure for the Toronto Maple Leafs would be inaccurate, to say the least.
No positive spin will be provided, where there doesn’t deserve to be one. This team underperformed all year, including when it mattered most. They’re now on the outside looking in as a result.
Countless areas can be covered to dissect went wrong. Including, but not limited to, why they were even in a position to fight for a playoff spot as opposed to having secured theirs already.
For a lineup with as much talent scattered throughout it as Toronto’s, their path should have been a much smoother one than they made it out to be.
Pulling things into the present, the reality is that the Maple Leafs blew their chance to write a different ending to this year’s story by losing at the play-ins stage of the post-season.
Having required all five games to face that fate is a failure in itself, as they should have been able to overcome that hurdle and a lot quicker at that.
After their historic comeback to win Game 4 of the qualifiers and force the final and deciding match, not capitalizing to close it out with that chance directly in reach just makes things worse.
For all who watched that embarrassing Game 5 loss, some obvious things stood out as to what they did wrong. The final result of that game should not have surprised anyone who witnessed it.
It’s no one’s fault but their own, as they ultimately handed the Columbus Blue Jackets a free pass into the First Round. Toronto’s personnel then punched their tickets home.
Too Many Games
Why did this even get to a Game 5? We all knew this would be a hard-fought battle, but to have to win Game 4 in such dramatic fashion and even require a fifth and deciding match-up was unacceptable for this organization.
That’s not to undermine Columbus, their skill, or compete level. They are a team with a solid structure, constantly driving to achieve. Their fight obviously outmatched Toronto’s, which is the part that just simply isn’t OK.
Throughout the majority of this series, the Maple Leafs seemed stunned by the ability of the Blue Jackets to shut down their futile offensive attempts. The creativity that players like Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are capable of was non-existent.
Toronto’s lineup played a predictable style. It was easily read and contained by Columbus. There were also far too many missed opportunities to make the clean pass, keep control of a play, or simply take the shot.
Not Defending Entries
Columbus breaking out of their own end was like watching warriors moving forward to attack. Toronto was always playing catch-up, as most entries into their zone were odd-man rushes that weren’t in their favour.
Constantly seeing the Maple Leafs have to manage 4-on-3 or 3-on-2 type scenarios, the Blue Jackets were earning so many opportunities that it became near impossible for them to not convert and outscore the Leafs along the way.
Missing the Easy Saves
Frederik Andersen’s performance for the Toronto Maple Leafs as a whole throughout the series was solid. He was more in tune with his play than in recent playoff appearances. However, he still needs to learn how to make those necessary saves at key moments.
It was a one-goal game, halfway through the third. Columbus picked up the puck in Toronto’s corner. Andersen cheated covering his post, a soft shot was thrown his way, and it ended up in the back of his net. Down 2-0, their fate was sealed.
This Toronto Maple Leafs lineup is far too talented to have let that be the conclusion to their year. Whatever is lacking in the locker room better be addressed before even more failure consumes this franchise.