Keefe: Maple Leafs have 'zero excuses' for series loss to Canadiens

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Sheldon Keefe believes there's no reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't have avoided blowing a 3-1 series lead and getting eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round series.

"We were in a good spot and didn't close it out," the Maple Leafs head coach said following a 3-1 loss in Game 7 on Monday night, according to The Athletic's James Mirtle. "We added enough pieces and depth to be able to deal with those (injury) situations, so there's zero excuses."

Keefe also expressed just how deeply the loss affected his team.

"Really hard to put it into words. We're obviously devastated (and) disappointed," he said, according to TSN's Kristen Shilton. "(We) expected better of ourselves, and we think we're capable of a lot more, not just (Monday night) but through the whole series."

In fact, Keefe revealed the team was so distraught he opted not to speak to them as a group afterward.

Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews - who earned the 2021 "Rocket" Richard Trophy with 41 goals during the regular season but scored just once in the series - also conveyed his disappointment.

"I'm not really sure how to sum it up. It's extremely frustrating all around," the dynamic center said.

Mitch Marner, whose giveaway allowed Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher to score the opening goal of Game 7, took some responsibility for his lackluster play.

"I just have to make sure that it stops happening," Marner said, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

The Maple Leafs were playing without two key players. John Tavares was stretchered off in Game 1. The Toronto captain sustained both a concussion and a knee injury on the play and was later ruled out for the series. Defenseman Jake Muzzin exited Game 6 after appearing to pull something and missed Game 7 after being ruled out for at least three weeks.

Toronto acquired forwards Nick Foligno and Riley Nash in separate deals at the trade deadline, as well as defenseman Ben Hutton. Foligno dealt with an injury of his own during the series, while Nash barely played and Hutton did not suit up in this postseason.

The Maple Leafs claimed the North Division title and entered the playoffs as the division's top seed. Montreal finished the regular season with the worst record among postseason clubs and earned the North's No. 4 seed as a result.

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Keefe: Maple Leafs have 'zero excuses' for series loss to Canadiens
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