The Toronto Maple Leafs got their wakeup call on Saturday night.
And it came in the form of a 7-0 blowout at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champs.
The Leafs were run over by the Boston Bruins in what was easily their worst performance of the season, losing in regulation for only the fourth time this year.
Afterwards, winger Joffrey Lupul described it more eloquently – and accurately – than most.
“They kicked our ass, every which way,” Lupul said.
While Toronto had entered the game in first place in the NHL with a somewhat misleading 9-3-1 record, there had been signs a beat down like this may have been coming – signs the Leafs players and coach Ron Wilson admitted they had noted earlier in the week.
After all, Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets had come despite being out shot 39-18 by the league’s last-place team.
“The game in Columbus kind of led into this,” Wilson said. “We actually talked about that between periods in Columbus. The way we were playing is an indication of a team that’s going to let things get out of hand at some point.
“We were lucky in that game to have been up 4-0 and we were allowing bad habits to creep in that hadn’t been there.”
Those bad habits were bad in sometimes spectacular fashion two nights later against the Bruins, who wound up with a hat trick from sophomore Tyler Seguin by the second period and were given glorious chances all night to beat up on Leafs rookie goalie Ben Scrivens in his home debut.
Seguin was on the board first, giving Boston a 1-0 lead in what was a relatively close first period, but to start the second, two Toronto brain cramps ended up in their net in the first minute.
The first saw Seguin scoring his second on a nice tip-in over the goaltender.
The second was Bruins big man Milan Lucic netting his first of two on a breakaway, a chance that came as a result of Zdeno Chara catching the Leafs top defence pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson looking half asleep and passing the puck right up the middle of the ice for an easy 1-on-0 for his teammate.
“I think I got caught too wide so I’ll take the blame for that one,” Gunnarsson said afterwards.
Later that period, two more quick goals made it 5-0 on just 14 shots, chasing Scrivens from the net even though the damage was hardly his fault.
“It seemed like every chance they got ended up in the back of the net,” he said. “I said [to the team]I’ve got to be better for you guys. At the end of the day, mistakes are going to happen in front of me; it’s my job to try and bail my team out and I didn’t think I did a great job of that tonight. That’s what I was apologizing for.”
"We left him exposed," Wilson said. "So it wasn't fair for him."
Backup Jonas Gustavsson didn’t fare much better, allowing two goals on the six shots he faced the rest of the way, but by then it hardly mattered.
So the Leafs are no longer a first-place team – and they certainly didn’t look like they belonged anywhere near close to that designation for much of the night.
The loss was Toronto’s second of the season to the Bruins, who have out scored the Leafs 13-2 in two lopsided meetings despite a slow 5-7-0 start to their post-championship campaign.
“We didn’t compete right from the opening puck drop,” Lupul said. “It’s pretty disappointing. This was a big game for us, Stanley Cup champs coming in... I think they’re around last place right now, they’re struggling, this should be a team we want to bury.
“We just didn’t compete. It was everything tonight. They outdid us at every aspect of the game.”
Gunnarsson essentially called it his worst outing of the season, but he had plenty of company in that regard.
“It’s always tough to lose like that,” he said. “Tough to see the guys, myself included, acting the way we did out there ... We lost a lot of battles out there. Against this team, you’ve just got to be on top of things.”
The Leafs now have two days off to regroup before facing the Florida Panthers at home on Tuesday. Toronto has yet to lose two games in a row this season.
“[It’s]a big wakeup call,” Lupul said. “I don’t know if we even had any chances to score. They kept us to the outside and we turned pucks over all night and left guys alone in front of our net. It’s tough to put your finger on it tonight. It was everything. We got away with one in Columbus we thought and tonight we got beat. Bad.”
“It’s actually probably better for us to go through a game like this right now,” Wilson said. “So that we can focus [on improving] If we lose 2-1 or 3-2 or something like that, oh we were just a shot away. But we weren’t anything close to that tonight so it’ll be good to learn from.
"Now we're kind of reading the papers and we're this fancy-dancy team and you can't play the Bruins like that. It becomes a blue collar game and we didn't have that tonight."