“It’s not like we’re killing time,” Martin St-Louis promised earlier this week after his team was shut out for the second game in a row. “We come to work,” he added.

His men first proved him right on Thursday. And they then proved him wrong on Saturday. In a stinging and embarrassing 7-1 loss, the Habs looked like what they are: a flat team, both physically and emotionally.

The Leafs, they also showed their true colors. That of a leading team, ready for the rigors of the playoffs.

St-Louis did not try to disguise the reality. “We weren’t there,” he said four times during a flash 62-second scrum, during which he spoke in both official languages.

What were his expectations, a priori? “Be better than that.” »

Did he have the weapons at hand to counter the Leafs’ top two lines, one of the best top 6s on the league? “It takes better intentions. »

Sheldon Keefe, his Toronto counterpart, spoke of the “smart” and “structured” way his men played. “They did nothing to harm each other,” he summed up.

Two qualifiers that could not be given to the Canadian, who gave six numerical advantages to the locals. They took the opportunity to score three times.

The Natural Stat Trick site established that the Leafs had a 17-1 advantage in quality scoring chances at 5-5. with such a gap, the trend is undeniable.

“We took too many punishments. It’s hard to generate momentum, noted Mike Matheson. When you give chances to a team like that, it’s difficult. That’s probably an understatement.

He saw his opponents “gain confidence” through their power play execution, which was reflected in the five-on-five play. Under these circumstances, “you know it’s not going to go well for you,” the defender continued, aptly.

“We knew what to expect, but we didn’t react well,” added Joel Edmundson. One had to be disciplined; we were not. »

Chris Wideman was much more direct. “I’m not sure there’s much to be proud of,” he quipped.

A week ago, after seeing his men being washed away by the Hurricanes, Martin St-Louis agreed with the supporters who booed his club at the Bell Center.

Both affirmations are lucid, but they are not pleasing. Not just for the brave who fight weariness watching the latest matches. But also for the proverbial development of this young team and its equally proverbial “culture”.

To rebuild means to suffer. You have to lose games to get down the standings and get good draft picks. The recipe is known.

However, there are still a few warriors. Matheson, in particular, who again flirted with the 30 minutes of play on Saturday.

“We have two games left to prove ourselves, end the season on a high note and go into the summer with some positives,” he said.

Asked to comment on the fact that the Leafs deployed their first wave of power play with an insurmountable lead at the very end of the game, the Montrealer did not flinch.

“As a competitor, I want to play against the best all the time. I think we would be sore losers if we got mad that they released this unit. They are preparing for the playoffs, they want to give their guys as many chances as possible. I would have liked to give them better opposition, but I wanted to see their first wave. »

It would be necessary to frame these wise words in the locker room for the final two duels, against the New York Islanders, who will possibly play their season, and against the Boston Bruins, who need no introduction.

Losing these encounters will have no impact on the destiny of this team. The manner of play, however, will be significant.

Martin St-Louis has spoken all season about the primacy of process over results. It would be a good time to show that the lesson has been learned.

The captain did not give up. Even if it does not translate on the score sheet, each of his presence is marked by a sincere and relentless effort. An example for his teammates.

His confrontation against Ryan O’Reilly’s trio was to the Leafs’ obvious advantage. And he was humiliated one-on-one by Auston Matthews in the third period on the sequence leading to the locals’ sixth goal.

In 8 minutes of power play, only three small shots from the Habs reached goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov. It’s thin, at the very least.

Immediately after the Leafs took a 2-0 lead in the first period, Michael Pezzetta threw away the gloves against Wayne Simmonds. We do not doubt his good intentions, but it did not happen as he wanted. Three punches later, Pezzetta was on the ground. We don’t talk much about him, but number 55 is not having a very good end to the season. He hasn’t scored a single point in his last 11 games. He has a differential of -5 in his last three outings. And despite all his willpower, he’s not a pure brawler either. He has highlighted in recent days that he is one of the few current forwards at the club to present a robust style on the ice. He’s probably right, but will that be enough to get him offered a new contract next summer? It’s not done, let’s say.

We did a lot of searching, but we found no trace of Jett Alexander in the Maple Leafs development system. The 23-year-old goaltender, who usually defends the net for the University of Toronto, was nevertheless in uniform at the end of the bench. The organization had granted him, a few hours before the meeting, an amateur trial contract. With the injury of Matt Murray, whose name has not been added to the official list of injured, however, the Leafs found themselves in the absurd situation where they no longer had enough salary space available to recall a guard from the minors, and no more to offer a contract to hope Matthew Knies, whose arrival in the Queen City is eagerly awaited. By making Alexander their emergency caretaker, the team has “created” the space needed to get back to business as usual over the next few days. Another rich learning.

Jett Alexander, in any case, will remember this evening for a long time. The decidedly fired-up youngster was sent into the fray with 70 seconds left in the game and his side leading 7-1. He received no shots, but will be able to say that he played in the NHL, which, in unanimous opinion, is not nothing. His presence, however, caused very small flames in both camps. Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted it was “not [his] decision.” Who placed the order? “It’s not important,” he retorted. At the Canadian, Chris Wideman did not appreciate the gesture of the Leafs at all, which he perceived as an affront. “They’ll get what they deserve in a few weeks,” he told reporters Eric Engels and Kevin McGran late in the evening, referring to Toronto’s history of quick playoff eliminations. No one else, however, took issue with the situation. “I think it was cool for him,” Mike Matheson summed up. End of non-controversy.