Maybe this is rock bottom for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe this is the point where they've finally hit the bottom of the crater and things can't possibly get any worse.
Maybe. If they're lucky. But probably not.
When Toronto took the ice for its game in Carolina on Thursday, the Maple Leafs were barely hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. When the game ended, an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, their third straight loss to a team behind them in the standings, they found themselves in 10th place in the Conference and dangerously close to falling even further back over the coming days (they are just one point ahead of Ottawa and only two points ahead of New Jersey).
With the way this team is going, and the way they were getting by with smoke and mirrors in the early part of the season (which was a carry over from their magic act a year ago) it's quite possible this team could finish the season closer to last place in the Conference than a playoff spot.
That's how bad this team is right now, and there is no sign that it's going to get any better.
Elsewhere, the Washington Capitals ended their four-game losing streak with a win in Tampa Bay, the New Jersey Devils shut out the Dallas Stars, John Scott was penalized for something silly, Jhonas Enroth was brutally honest about his team, and Mike Smith ran out of puck luck.
All the NHL Scores
Devils 1, Stars 0
Hurricanes 6, Maple Leafs 1
Capitals 4, Lightning 3
Blues 5, Flames 0
Wild 4, Coyotes 1
Kings 4, Bruins 2
On Thursday we asked you five burning questions about the days games. These are your cool, soothing answers.
1. Can the Capitals end their four-game losing streak?
Thanks to a two-goal effort from Eric Fehr, including the game-winner with just 52 seconds to play in regulation, the Capitals snapped their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win in Tampa Bay.
2. Will Jaromir Jagr keep climbing the NHL's all-time leaderboard?
Jagr was held off the scoresheet in the Devils' 1-0 win over the Dallas Stars, so he remains tied with Mario Lemieux, his former linemate with the Pittsburgh Penguins, for seventh place on the NHL's points list with 1,723.
3. Will the Los Angeles Kings score more than two goals?
It was a breakout game for the Kings offense as they chased Tuukka Rask and ended up putting four shots behind Boston goalies in a 4-2 win. Goals had been hard to come by for Los Angeles over the past couple of weeks, and it seems they just needed a game against one of the best defensive teams in the league to start scoring. Funny how hockey works sometimes.
4. Will the Wild extend its winning streak?
They're streaky, and they kept their current winning streak alive with a 4-1 win in Phoenix with Justin Fontaine's hat trick being the difference. His second goal was a little lucky, but they all count the same on the scoreboard.
5. Will Jeff Skinner score for the Hurricanes?
Of course he did. Nobody can stop this guy right now and his goal in Carolina's 6-1 win over Toronto was his 18th goal in his past 19 games, giving him 21 on the season.
The one play or moment from Thursday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
Jake Gardiner plays more minutes for the Toronto Maple Leafs than any other player on the roster with the exception of captain Dion Phaneuf. He is a talented young player that, while prone to some mistakes here and there, is the type of dynamic player on the blue line that a team like Toronto should want in the lineup and on the ice. On Thursday, he was a healthy scratch against the Hurricanes. And then Toronto went out and laid an egg in Carolina. This is where the Maple Leafs are right now. It's not just that the players on the ice aren't good enough, the people making decisions are actively holding the team back.
Stat of the Night
This is amazing, and it comes via @daftpuck. Since Christmas the Calgary Flames as a team have scored five goals. Since Christmas Nathan MacKinnon, a teenager playing in the NHL, has scored six goals. How does that even happen? That an entire team could be outscored by one 18-year-old over a two week stretch? After their 5-0 loss to the Blues on Thursday, the Flames have been shut out five times in their past seven games. In one of the two games they weren't shut out they scored one goal.
Post to Post
- Is Tuukka Rask's recent play a cause for concern? He was pulled on Thursday after giving up three goals in Los Angeles.
- Where does your team rank in the newest power rankings?
- Barry Trotz is saying some strange things in Nashville.
- Olaf Kolzig may have broken Braden Holtby. Can he also fix him?
- Brian Rafalski is back on the ice after signing a contract with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. Is the NHL his next stop?