TORONTO — If you have yet to “turn the page,” like professional athletes have to do after every last buzzer, the Great Big Book of Toronto Maple Leafs Games remains open through May 12-14 — a pair of maddeningly close games-goal losses against the later Stanley Cup finalists.
For the sake of the nation, we will not burden misery. But with two key figures in Toronto’s Game 6 and Game 7 losses speaking publicly this week for the first time since these potential series winners, it’s worth getting their feelings on record.
Alexander Kerfoot needed time to process what went wrong in Tampa Bay.
“You try to learn from every experience, right?” the striker said on Friday. “Really no different than in the past few years. You learn from these experiences, but you also try to wash them away as quickly as possible.
“Because when it’s done, it’s done. There’s not much you can do about it.”
Game 6 took a toll on Kerfoot.
Fair or not, some will remember his 2021-22 campaign not for scoring a career-best 51 points and a plus 19 rating, but for handing Ondrej Palat a costly neutral zone giveaway in Period 1 and a towering little 200-footer from his own net in Period 3, leading to a long 5-on-3 power play in Tampa.
Both slips resulted in lightning strikes and the Maple Leafs lost 3-4 in overtime.
“My feelings were not great. Obviously, you never want to be on that side of things. And it’s different in a team sport than in an individual sport,” Kerfoot said.
“In an individual sport, you can live with those mistakes a little bit easier because it’s all down to you. In a team sport you make a mistake like that, it affects the group. It affects the organization. It’s impacting the fan base that cares so much about this team. So yeah, it sucks.
“You never want to be involved in such plays. But it happens. Like I said you gotta wash it out, on to the next one. Obviously the series didn’t go the way we wanted it to. But when the season is over, it’s over. And you just have to focus on getting better. I mean I care a lot about this game, this sport, this team. I want to do my best for this group. I just have to keep doing this day after day.”
Thanks to Kerfoot for answering questions about an old game with new horizons.
The player moves on towards a chance for payback and a critical contract year. He doesn’t cry because of spilled milk.
“Penalties happen. It was a tough time in game for something like this. But they won fairly and honestly. They’re a really good hockey team,” Kerfoot said.
“We had a chance in Game 7. We had a chance [Game 6’s] over time. It’s over now and we’re just concentrating on this season.”
Leafs fans who believe in multiverse might be driving themselves nuts wondering how the playoffs would have played out if Tampa had gone without a two-man advantage…or had Justin Holl not been called out for Game 7 interference.
Holl’s Anthony Cirelli pick in the cycle freed John Tavares to flick a puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy who momentarily seemed to level Game 7 1-1.
Unfortunately, Holl was called off for interference and the goal never made it to the board – a moment the defender relived in the off-season.
“That was a tough call. I felt like we were both walking the same path. And I actually tried to get out of the way, and [Cirelli] kind of got into me – or that’s how I felt. And maybe if that’s not a goal, it won’t be called. But it was just kind of a bang-bang situation. Of course I didn’t like it, but that’s how it is,” said Holl.
“I don’t really think I would have done anything differently. I tried to get out of the way. You’re just trying to make the right decision at the right time, and sometimes things don’t go your way.”