Questions abound after Maple Leafs get blown out on home ice in 9-2 loss to Predators
It was an absolute disaster for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Less than a week ago the team was riding high when they exacted a measure of revenge on the Boston Bruins with a strong showing in a 6-1 win.
The victory (at that point their third in a row) offered some sort of redemption for a Saturday night loss at the Air Canada Centre to the B's in late October, their performance in that 4-1 loss disgusted fans, provoking one to throw their jersey on the ice in disgust and prompting scathing critiscm from Canada's songbird - Anne Murray.
Is there a "good" hockey game going on anywhere tonight?
— Anne Murray (@annemurray1) November 19, 2014
It was the third time in the opening month of the season that they had been shellacked in their own building.
Sadly for the Maple Leafs and their supporters, their play has once again taken a turn for the worse - and in a far more pronounced way.
After losing back-to-back games on the weekend including a 6-2 beatdown in Buffalo on Saturday, they now have a season-high three-game losing streak thanks to being obliteratied 9-2 at the hands of the re-tooled Nashville Predators.
It was the most lopsided home loss the Leafs have suffered at the Air Canada Centre. Randy Carlyle couldn't think of a single game in 683 career NHL games behind the bench that has been as bad.
"Maybe I played in a couple," he said glumly. "I don't remember coaching in one."
Carlyle pointed to turnovers and the team's inability to get inside the Predators blueline as the key reasons for the lacklustre showing.
"Seventeen (giveaways) in the second and 18 in the first, you can't win in any league or at any level of hockey playing that loose with the puck," said the former Norris Trophy winning defenseman. "Management of the puck is critical. You play teams that are going to force you to play the game along the walls and we refuse to put the puck in and simplify what we needed to do in certain situations."
The Maple Leafs allowed three goals in the first period which spelled an early night for Jonathan Bernier who was pulled in favour of James Reimer after the opening 20 minutes.
Already down 4-0 heading into the third period, the home side looked even more listless in the final period, allowing the proceedings to turn into a game of shinny.
Fans serenaded the team with a chorus of boos and chants of "Let's Go Raptors," over the course of the game.
So has Carlyle lost the team?
"I think that's a cliche that goes with sports," he said. "As a coaching staff we look at the things we need to provide to our group and (the players) have to look at the contributions to their group - what have they done to support their teammates."
Furthermore, is the team trying to get Carlyle fired? "F*** no!" said defenceman Cody Franson.
Leafs trying to get Carlyle fired? Franson: "F--k no"
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 19, 2014
Forgive Franson for his emphatic, profane response.
Afterall, the team is around where most people would have thought they would be in the standings at this point in the season with a 9-8-2 record.
Regardless, their play in the last two games hasn't done to much to refute the notion.
"I remember my first year in Philadelphia we got stomped early in the year and we ended up going to the Cup finals that year," said James van Riemsdyk. "There are ebbs and flows to a season, by no means are we going to accept what happened, no matter if you lose by 7 or you lose by 1, its still 2 points you lost, that's the way we need to look at it. We know we haven't been good enough..."
That may be the case, but after being defeated in such a manner - can you chalk up the loses to the ups and downs every team goes through in a season?
JVR's fellow top-line winger called the Maple Leafs' performance "embarrassing" but also tried to put it into context.
"It's three games right? obviously we haven't played well in those," Phil Kessel said. "Pittsburgh was obviously a close game but these last two have been unacceptable, we will come prepared tomorrow and obviously we are going to need more than this."
No matter what the reason or remedy, one thing is for certain.
A loss of this magnitude, especially at home, drags everyone into question and the sense of change begins to thicken in the air.
Follow Neil Acharya on Twitter: @Neil_Acharya