The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off a disappointing first round playoff exit after losing a 7 games series to the Boston Bruins, and despite the fact that the Bruins were rightfully considered the favorites heading into this series, the way the Leafs lost is what makes it sting so bad for their fan base. The Leafs came back from two games down in the series and entered the final frame of Game 7 with a one goal lead, but a late game collapse resulted in 4 unanswered goals for the Bruins and the end of the Maple Leafs season.
Last night following the devastating loss for the Leafs an overwhelming amount of the criticism for the loss fell on the shoulders of Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner. Gardiner was brutal in the final moments of Game 7 and as a result he finished the night with a horrible stat line, something that angry Leaf fans were quick to pounce on. To his credit though the embattled Leafs blue liner faced the cameras after the game, and with his voice shaking with emotion he admitted that he had cost his team the game.
"It was not the way we say it going," said Gardiner. "Personally I gotta be better, a lot of this game is one me and it's just not good enough, especially in a game like this."
Despite that however when Maple Leafs insider James Mirtle of The Athletic handed down his playoff grades for each player on the Maple Leafs roster, Gardiner wasn't even close to being at the bottom of the pile. Mirtle graded Gardiner a "C+" over the course of the entire series, and when you consider just how poor he was in Game 7 that is a rather positive reflection on how well he played in the other 6 games. Instead Mirtle saved his lowest grade for one of Toronto's top forwards, but it's probably not who you think it is.
A lot of fans will be quick to assume that Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews would bear the brunt of the criticism when it comes to Toronto's forwards, but Matthews received a similar grade to the one given to Gardiner. Mirtle also gave Matthews a "C+" on the series citing the fact that the Leafs had more chances at 5 on 5 than their opponents did when Matthews was on the ice, as well as the fact that Matthews finished fourth in scoring chances generated among all players in the National Hockey League's playoffs. So that begs the question who was awarded the awful rating of an "F."
Mirtle saved his lowest rating for Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri and his reasoning for doing so is pretty sound. He argues that Nazem Kadri's suspension may very well have cost the Maple Leafs the series, and he feels that as one of the team's top players he simply could not afford to get himself suspended for 3 out of the 7 games. He was also quick to point out that those critical of Matthews' dip in production in the playoffs should also be quick to point to the fact that Matthews was much easier to match up against without Kadri also providing a threat up the middle.
Do you agree with these ratings? Should Kadri have to shoulder the lion's share of the blame? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.