Dion Phaneuf apologized for not talking to the media after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost their sixth straight game Tuesday night.
The Leafs captain said he was too emotional after the game and didn’t want to say anything out of line following one of his worst performances of the season.
“To be completely honest with you, I was emotional about the game,” Phaneuf told Tim & Sid on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “I didn’t want to let my emotions get the best of me. I feel bad about not being available. At that point in time, I was disappointed in the way that I played and I was emotional after the game. That’s why I did not talk.”
Phaneuf was a minus-3 in 20:40 played in Toronto’s 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues. He made plenty of errors in the game, including a noticeable gaffe when he failed to clear the puck with multiple opportunities to do so late in the first period, leading to a St. Louis goal by David Backes.
The Leafs defenceman was later beaten in front of the net by Alex Steen on St. Louis’s fourth goal and could not corral the puck at the blue line on a pass from Cody Franson late in the third period, leading to Backes’s empty-netter to seal the game.
“I made some mistakes that are uncharacteristic of the way I play, and I take responsibility for those mistakes,”Phaneuf said.
Phaneuf also was accountable for the team’s weak defensive play as of late and acknowledged the Leafs have been allowing too many shots on net, which has been taxing on their goaltenders.
“We definitely gave (Jonathan Bernier) more work than he should have had. That’s what you saw in the shot differential. We were not doing enough things right. To rely on your goalie to make that many saves puts him in a tough spot. We got to find a way to cut down on shot totals. It’s too taxing on our goalie. That’s a focus for us that we have to get better at.”
The Leafs allowed 44 shots in the loss to St. Louis and have been routinely outshot by their opposition throughout the regular season. Some have questioned whether that is a coaching issue, but Phaneuf shot down the notion that the Leafs’ players are tuning out the coaching staff.
“That’s not true at all,” he said emphatically. “Randy (Carlyle) and the coaching staff have done a good job with our team. When you go through a stretch like this, everything gets questioned. We believe in the coaching staff, and that’s a non-issue.”
Despite the team’s recent skid, Phaneuf believes the team will be able to push for a playoff spot.
“We have to pull together,” he said. “We got lots of leadership in our room, and it’s my responsibility to pull our way through it. We dug ourselves a hole but our focus is to get ready for Friday and there’s no quit in our room and we’re going to get out of this.
“We’re going to do our best to win these games and get into the playoffs. We’ll hopefully get a win on Friday.”
Heading into Wednesday’s action, the Leafs are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, and Washington Capitals with 80 points but have played more games than all three teams and have just eight games remaining in the regular season.