Whether the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs by 2, 3 or 6 or 7 points they can point to five games that really cost them. These are games in which they blew a large lead or allowed an opponent to tie a game late and usually lost in overtime or a shootout. As well as they have played in the second half of the season, the ground to be made up was just too much. It certainly would have been helpful if they didn't fritter away points in teh manner they did in these five matches.
November 3, 2010 at Washington. Capitals 5, Leafs 4 in a shootout.
Toronto managed to tally three goals in a three minute span in the third to take a 4-3 lead. Alexander Semin tied it up at 14:22 of the final frame on a powerplay while Brett Lebda was serving a cross-checking minor. Johan Gustavsson lost the shootout battle with Michal Neuvirth.
November 6, 2010 at Toronto. Sabres 3, Leafs 2 in a shootout.
In their very next game, Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 lead until late in the second. Jochen Hecht tied the game at 19:46 of the third. Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth bested JS Giguere in the shootout for the extra point.
November 30, 2010 at Toronto. Lightning 4, Leafs 3 in OT.
Nikolai Kulemin put Toronto up 3-1 7:23 into the third only to have Martin St.Louis score a minute later. St.Louis tied the game with 9 seconds remaining to send it to overtime. Simon Gagne won the game 1:15 later beating Jonas Gustavsson.
February 27, 2011 at Atlanta. Thrashers 3, Leafs 2 in OT.
Taking a 2-0 lead into the third, Atlanta scored on a powerplay early in the third and Tim Stapleton tied it at 15:24 of the final frame. Ron Hainsey beat JS Giguere in OT. Giguere had replaced James Reimer just over halfway through the game and would allow 3 goals in 26 minutes of play.
March 17, 2011 at Florida. Panthers 4, Leafs 0.
Ron Wilson gives James Reimer an un-needed rest day after beating Carolina the day before.
Giggy obviously wasn't the only reason for this loss, but he sure didn't help much.
The one thread through these five games is the absence of James Reimer. Brian Burke could not have forseen what he had sitting down in the AHL in the person of James Reimer or else he would have been called up earlier. Although the fact remains, that is essentially the job of an NHL General Manager, assessing their organizational talent depth and using it properly. As many good things Burke has done over the last year or so, he could have done better in this case.
If he had called up Reimer slightly earlier, (or not sent him down for a brief spell in February) the Leafs may currently been on the good side of the playoff chase.