On Saturday night the Toronto Maple Leafs once again failed to close out their series against a Montreal Canadiens squad that came into the series as heavy underdogs and you can already start to feel the panic setting in to the Maple Leafs fan base.
A big part of that panic stems from the fact that, although it is true the Leafs lost captain John Tavares early on the series, the top stars on the Maple Leafs roster have largely failed to produce in this series. Forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have not performed up to expectations and in fact one could argue that Marner played a pivotal role in giving the Canadiens the win on Saturday night when he took one of the worst penalties of the series when the Leafs were already on the penalty kill.
Following the loss head coach Sheldon Keefe openly called out his top stars when he was critical of the Matthews' line, although it would be unfair to suggest he simply threw them under the bus. Keefe commended them on their hard work in Game 6, but was also quick to point out that those efforts were simply not good enough.
""They worked really hard. Obviously they didn't get enough done," said Keefe on Saturday night.
Marner also chimed in on the loss but despite being self-critical of himself and his teammates fans in Toronto who responded to his comments weren't buying it. It was an answer that those fans simply felt they had heard to many times from the star forward.
"We just didn't come ready to play at the start of the game," said Marner. "We really do have to start on time because it's getting said a lot, and it's not good enough."
The response to the comments from Toronto Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews were similar, although Matthews seemed somewhat more measured in his comments. He correctly pointed out that the Leafs had created some solid chances to potentially end the game, and by extension the series, but simply had failed to capitalize when it mattered most.
"It's obviously frustrating losing the game, but battling back the way we did, there were plenty of chances to end the game and we couldn't get it done," said Matthews. "We're going back home and we've got to be ready."
There's no question that this series has damaged the perception of the Leafs own fan base when it comes to viewing their team as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and I can't even imagine what the reaction will be like if they fail to take home the W in Game 7 of this series.