It was the last game of the season.
Although there was only pride left to play for, the Leafs battled until the final shot, but came up just short.
There will be a dissection of the Leafs season when the team meets on Monday for medicals and locker cleanup.
One player who will be leaving on a high note is Casey Bailey. The recently acquired collegiate forward ended his season with his first NHL goal.
“I learned a lot in my couple of weeks here,” said Bailey of his time in Toronto. “I have a lot of work to do in the offseason but I’m going to come in here next year, battling for a spot and hopefully be a lot stronger and in better shape.”
Bailey’s goal allowed was assisted by captain Dion Phaneuf, who registered his 400th career NHL point. For the captain, the game was emotional given the uncertainty that is the off season.
Like any season, there is always change.
“There’s a lot of different emotions,” said Phaneuf. “I’ll be honest with you it didn’t really sink in until I was on my way to the rink. It’s tough when you finish the season. With the way that the year has gone, there will be change as there will be with a lot of teams.”
Jonathan Bernier made 30 saves in his final start of the season. Bernier has been asked to take part for Canada at the upcoming World Hockey Championships in Prague. He has yet to make his decision but it looks like he could be destined for more games.
And then there is Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek who was thrust in a very difficult spot this season. With his back against the wall, he spent the last seven games treating it as if it was Toronto’s playoffs.
“At the end of the day, I think there are battles that you win in the midst of losing situations,” said Horachek. “You try to take something positive and you see where it goes. But it’s evident there is change that has to happen.”
The Leafs put in a good showing over their last seven games. A Leafs/Canadiens game had that same feel despite Toronto being outside of the playoff picture. It was electric and it’ll be a feeling Toronto fans will be hoping to replicate when the season gets going again in October.
“There has to be a new approach for next year. A better attitude, a better approach to do things. Ultimately, this team had to change,” said Horachek. “If we continued right where we were in November, we might not make the playoffs. We might be fighting for the playoffs and if you’re in that situation, even if we made the playoffs we aren’t going to win. Is that what we want? Do we want to be competitive or do we want to win the Stanley Cup? That’s the change that we have to make.”
And so that change begins. Sit tight.