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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski is hit into the boards by Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Marc-Andre Bourdon (L) during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto March 29, 2012.


If it can get worse than this for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it's hard to imagine how.

They've won just five times in their last 25 games, including a franchise-record 11 losses in a row at home, and been embarrassed night after night en route to a seventh straight playoff miss.

And in the latest ignominy, during Thursday's night 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Air Canada Centre crowd was chanting "Let's go Blue Jays" several times.

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It's gotten to the point that the Leafs are completely out of ways to explain their horrible play.

"I don't have any answers for you," Phil Kessel said. "It's disappointing.

"I don't know if you guys [in the media]have seen something like this before because I haven't. We just can't figure it out."

Making Thursday's loss even more difficult was the fact it was the first career start for Finnish rookie Jussi Rynnas, who was mainly on hand to simply open the bench door but was pressed into action when Jonas Gustavsson was injured in the warm-up.

Gustavsson took a puck off a spot without any padding on his leg just 20 minutes before the opening faceoff and had to be helped off the ice.

The injury isn't expected to keep him out long term, but the damage was certainly done to a shell-shocked Rynnas, who faced 30 shots on the night.

He received a brief pep talk from Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire in the dressing room after the game.

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"You never want to give up seven goals," Rynnas said quietly. "I'm not happy about that."

Several of Rynnas's teammates remarked how they felt terrible for leaving him to fend for himself on many of the goals, which came evenly spread out with two in each of the first two periods and three in the third.

Toronto, meanwhile, managed just 17 shots on goal on the night, part of a trend of late where they've been badly outpaced on the shot clock.

"It's probably between our ears," defenceman Carl Gunnarsson said. "It's just no confidence in ourselves, in each other. That's what it feels like."

"It's not like we're going out there trying to lose," Cody Franson added. "Guys are playing for jobs, guys are playing for pride more than anything. We hate it when our fans boo. We want to give them something to cheer about but right now we're just having a tough time finding that."

With only four games left in their season, the Leafs currently sit fifth last in the league and are within four points of having the second worst record overall.

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If nothing else, they're improving their draft pick nightly, as they've picked up just 13 points in a nearly two-month span and been passed by 14 teams in that time frame.

Kessel has become somewhat of a voice for his team of late, meeting with the media every day this week and attempting to articulate his frustration and disappointment with the situation.

After Thursday's loss, he held court with reporters for four minutes, often repeating himself in the process.

"We're having a tough time with it," Kessel said. "It's disappointing to come into our building and play like this all the time."

He was then asked about the recent boos and catcalls from the fan base, which was particularly unruly at the ACC on Thursday, with one fan even throwing a jersey on the ice late in the game.

"We're not playing well so what do you expect?" Kessel said. "I don't remember the last time we won a game in this building. It's a tough situation. It's going to have to come from this room; how to get out of this. We have four games left and we got to battle. We've got to win some games here.

"I don't know what our record is here in the last how many games. We just... we're not playing a good game. We're not creating chances, we're not playing good defence, we're not doing the little things to win hockey games. I mean, how many shots did we have tonight? When you play like that, and they have 35, 40, I mean how do you win a game? We're just not doing anything right.

"We expect better of ourselves. Hopefully in the last four games, we can prove that we're better than this because it's not what we want to be."

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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