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Rick Zamperin: Maple Leafs fall apart in Game 7, season is over

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen and center Tomas Plekanec (19) stretch to make a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in Boston, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

20 minutes away from moving on to round 2 of the NHL playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs were sitting pretty.

Leading 4-3 in Boston, one period away from erasing a 3-1 series deficit, and the Leafs ended up playing one of their worst periods of the playoffs, if not the season.

Toronto had eight shots on the goal in the period and allowed Boston to score four times, one of which was an empty netter.

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Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner was a hot mess, finishing the game with an assist, but he was a minus 5.

Goalie Frederik Anderson had an up and down series, and he was shaky at best in the third period Wednesday night.

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Star forward Auston Matthews generated offensive chances and created space for his teammates, but he had just two points in the series and could not solve Zdeno Chara and Boston’s defensive system.

I can go on and on and point fingers, but the fact of the matter is, Toronto simply did not deserve to win this series.

Now that the Leafs are out of the playoffs we can begin to forecast what this team is going to look like next season.

I think impending free agents James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komorov and Tomas Plekanec will all be wearing different uniforms come the fall.

If I can make a suggestion to the front office, the team should use their salaries for a stud defenceman.  You know, an anti-Jake Gardiner.

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Toronto will again be a fast, young and offensively dangerous team next season – but they need to learn how to win the big game.

And until they do that, they will have no hope of ending their more than half-century long Stanley Cup drought.

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