Immediately following the most forgetful single-game performance of his NHL career in Toronto’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss to Boston on Wednesday, it would’ve been easy for Jake Gardiner to fabricate an excuse and hide from the media.
Instead, the veteran defenceman stepped up and faced the tough questions from reporters after the contest, putting the loss on himself as he held back tears reflecting on another series defeat at the hands of the Bruins.
“Personally, I’ve got to be better. A lot of this game is on me and it’s just not good enough, especially in a game like this. It was the most important game of the season and I didn’t show up so not much I can say, really,” Gardiner said post game, via TSN.
“There’s no real explanation. I felt fine. It just seemed like everything I was doing ended up in the back of the net.”
He added: “It’s going to be a tough one to swallow. I let a lot of people down. Hopefully I can come back better from it. It’s too bad.”
Things started off great for the Leafs blueliner, who feathered a beautiful shot towards the net that was deflected in by Patrick Marleau two minutes into the game.
But after that, it was all downhill for Gardiner who, in just over 24 minutes of ice time, posted a game-worst minus-5 rating and lead Toronto’s defence corps with a pair of giveaways.
Jake Gardiner on DeBrusk's GWG goal: "I saw that he had a lot of speed & didn't think I could keep him in front of me so I turned, skated with him & he made a good play. But I got to get a stick on it."
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 26, 2018
A brutally tough night for Gardiner, for sure. But when you put your faith in a risk-reward type defenceman like he is, you get what you get — and tonight you saw the worst of an otherwise excellent season from the the 27-year-old.
Kudos to Gardiner for owning it when he didn’t have to. Toronto was basically outplayed for seven straight games this series and deserved, as a team, the result it yielded.
Another offseason for the Maple Leafs begins, and improving this blue line should be far and away the front office’s priority in the coming months.
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