Kessel: Leafs ‘can’t go through stretches like this’

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The San Jose Sharks handed the Toronto Maple Leafs their third straight loss and fifth consecutive road defeat on Thursday night. It wasn’t pretty as San Jose generated a 3-1 edge and fired 42 shots on goal to Toronto’s 25.

Honestly, the Maple Leafs’ recent numbers are ugly any way you slice it.

  • They have just three wins since Dec. 18 (3-11-0).
  • Toronto has lost six of seven since 2015 rolled around.
  • The Buds have only won once in four games under interim head coach Peter Horachek.
  • Their offense has really gone dry, scoring a single goal in a three-game road trip through California (the tab in those three losses: nine goals for opponents, one for Toronto).

Is it luck?

There was some positive buzz surrounding the Maple Leafs when Horachek first took over. From a big picture standpoint, some of that may stand, at least for those who cringed at Randy Carlyle’s system.

Losing games tends to sour such optimism, however, as Phil Kessel noted to TSN.

“In this league you can’t go through stretches like this,” Kessel said. “Obviously it’s disappointing here. I think we’re playing decent hockey, but we’re just not winning any games.”

It’s bad enough that Kessel is throwing around terms like “slay the dragon.”

Pattern continues

The team is generally saying all the right things, yet as much as they talk about gripping sticks too tightly and needing more bounces, Toronto may just lack the makeup to get things done.

In the last three games, they’ve generated 25, 28 and 19 shots on goal. It’s no secret that they allow more pucks on their net than they, averaging 29 shots on goal per night while giving up 33.5.

To little surprise, this slump is being met with harsh criticism in the media … criticism that’s increasingly difficult to dismiss:

Are the Maple Leafs suffering from bad luck or are they just plain bad? That may be a matter of debate, but the bottom line is that Toronto is quickly fading from the East playoff bubble picture.

With six of their next eight games on the road, this rough stretch may very well continue, too.