• By: Dave Gross

Buds bleeding as playoffs near

Our regularly scheduled programming is on hiatus this week.

Patience people, we’re not going far.

Nope, no Ottawa Senators breakdown in detail this week, instead we cast our eyes and thoughts down the 416 and along the 401 to Toronto.

If you’re a Senators’ fan you might even enjoy this. Hell yeah.

The Leafs, thought of as a blue-chip Stanley Cup contender just weeks ago, have fallen into some sort of malaise-driven abyss.

My friend – a rabid Leaf fan as were the majority of the sell-out audience this past Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre – and I took in that Senator-Leaf shocker where Ottawa (last place in the entire league) basted and blasted Toronto (fifth overall in the entire league).

Full credit there Ottawa for the win. But the guys in blue helped out. A lot.

The Leafs looked sleepy and languid. We understand the scenario, that this team was playing its third game in four nights, but come on, it’s not like Toronto had to travel to Alaska and back. This is the modern-day NHL with charter flights and comfortable hotel rooms. I don’t buy a busy schedule as being THAT taxing. Certainly not taxing enough to give birth to THAT kind of effort on Saturday.

No, the Leafs were just simply bad.

And this type of play has been a consistent lately in Toronto’s game: Too selfish, too lazy, too defensively disastrous.

And it all couldn’t come to a head at a worse time of the season – playoffs and the Boston Bruins sit right around the corner.

They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that defence wins championships. If that is

indeed the case, yikes.

You most certainly cannot lay the blame at the pads of Freddie Andersen. Again this year, Andersen’s been Toronto’s most valuable player.

In the case of Andersen (who it should be noted, did not play on Saturday as Garret Sparks got the start), his over-use and subsequent fatigue factor falls in the lap of GM Kyle Dubas who failed to provide the Leafs with solid back-up netminding. It also falls on coach Mike Babcock who keeps throwing Freddie out there game after game (although, like he has a choice).

The result?

Toronto’s given up 23 goals in the last four games.


But given the hairy eyeball treatment, the Leafs defensive record goes deeper than fatigue.

Watching that welcome wagon in front of the Toronto goal was troubling. One-two-three-four whacks at loose pucks right in front of Sparks was a constant.

I harped on it before and I’ll harp on it again – Dubas did nothing to bring in a tougher blueliner at the trade deadline. What you see is what you get. You can practically see the hand-rubbing in Boston.

And while we’re throwing knives, Toronto’s sexy and vaunted group of young guns has to be better. Auston Matthews just signed a new deal and is playing like he can’t wait to spend some of it on a lengthy beach vacation.

He’s got to be better and he’s got to find some gumption in his game, or the Buds are butter. Ditto for Willy Nylander.

The playoffs are coming (you can almost hear Jon Snow uttering that in Game of Thrones tone), Toronto needs to wake up.

News, notes and notions: Had the chance to catch up for a few minutes with old friend and former colleague at the TEAM 1200 Mike Ross Saturday night at the game. Rossy is now the PA announcer for the Maple Leafs. He was destined for greatness back in the early 2000s working in the same role with the Ottawa 67’s. He was the OHL’s best, wrote someone at the Ottawa Sun at the time. Oh right, it was me . . . This might sound a tad facetious, but what the heck: That Columbus/Carolina game Friday night was the biggest in the history of Columbus/Carolina games. Doesn’t sound like much does it. However, checking the standings prior to the game saw the two clubs neck and neck for the final two playoff spots in the East . . . Given the Blue Jackets commitment to going ‘all in’ this season, anything less than a playoff rung is colossally disappointing . . . Mark Stone (hey, remember him? Insert sad face emoji here) might not be tearing it up on the scoreboard for his new team in Vegas but that doesn’t nearly tell the story. To a man, anyone associated with the Golden Knights will tell you Stone’s been their best player since landing in Nevada at the trade deadline . . . Newly inked Senator Max Veronneau might very well morph into a very good player for Ottawa but given the history of highly touted college prospects signed here, he’d be one of the very first. (Please see Jesse Winchester, Stefan DaCosta, Colin Greening, Erik Condra, Bobby Butler, Brandon Bochenski . . . not all of these were UFAs though.)

Senators week ahead:

Wednesday, March 20: Ottawa at Vancouver (10 p.m.)

Thursday, March 21: Ottawa at Calgary (9 p.m.)

Saturday, March 23: Ottawa at Edmonton (4 p.m.)