Sloppiness in own end hurts Leafs

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

TORONTO - Sloppiness in their own end will happen, though it should never be as bad as it was in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

With a lack of proven depth, the Leafs attack will have off nights scoring like this one as well.

But what will stop them in their tracks is if they refuse to go to the tough areas of the rink.

“We weren’t willing to go to the front of the net and win battles,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

The result of all three weaknesses — and rank them in whichever order you prefer — has the Leafs on their first losing streak of the season.

GAME ON

The Leafs came out with what was easily their worst first period of the season, being outshot 9-2 at one point and trailing 2-0 at the break ... Overall, it was flashback Thursday — sloppy defence, limited offence and a dead building. It looked a lot like last season except that former goalie Vesa Toskala is far away ... The chance of the Leafs catching an opponent by surprise is virtually non-existent now. The Rangers came in determined to stifle the Leafs’ speed and it worked. “The neutral zone is a key part of the game — especially against a team with a lot of confidence,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said ... A team crying out for offence is going to have to make a more pointed effort at getting to the tough areas. The Rangers blocked a whopping 30 shots. “You watch the teams who win, (blocking shots) is a huge part of hockey,” Tortorella said ... After an 0-for-5 night on the power-play, getting clear shots has to be a priority for the Leafs. “It’s something we have to work on,” defenceman Luke Schenn — one of the team’s few bright lights Thursday — said afterwards. “We have to get our head up, maybe fake it and walk around it. We weren’t on our toes; we were sitting back too much.”

SHIFT CHANGE

From training camp it has been a fair question: Is Tyler Bozak a legitimate No. 1 centre? For the most part, he’s been fine, but facing the aggressive shutdown tactics of the Rangers, Bozak wasn’t up to the task. As a result, he spent most of the third period on the bench. “I didn’t think he was playing well, so I made some changes,” Wilson said ... Nikolai Kulemin (and to a lesser extent Mike Zigomanis) spent most of the third period along with Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg ... One of the beneficiaries was winger Colby Armstrong, who scored his first as a Leaf when promoted to a second line along with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski. “You don’t like to see that happen,” Armstrong said of the line changes. “But I guess (Wilson) is looking for a spark.” ... You have to wonder if Versteeg will ever score. The winger had a great chance to tie it up in the third on a power-play breakaway. Rangers goalie Martin Biron didn’t flinch, however, and made the save ... When Artem Anisimov scored (after defenceman Tomas Kaberle failed to clear him from the front of the net at 17:12 of the first) it was the first time the Leafs trailed by more than a goal this season ... Another negative first: The Rangers became the first opponent to get more than 30 shots on the Leafs net (32).

IN THIS CORNER

Five games into his life as a Ranger, Derek Boogaard finally got a chance to begin earning that four-year, $6.6-million US contract. One of the NHL’s elite heavyweights, Boogard scrapped with the guy who used to fill the bouncer’s role with the Rangers — Colton Orr. We’ll give Orr the decision, only because he wrestled the Boogeyman to the ice to end it .... Tale of the tape between those two, by the way: Orr (6-foot-3, 222 pounds), Boogaard (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) ... Other than that, there was little of the fireworks predicted by many. “No rough stuff, no baloney, so we let all you guys down,” Wilson said ... Of course, maybe a little more edge might have served the Leafs well ... With his team shutting down the Leafs, Tortorella was in no hurry to instigate anything, either.

OVERTIME

Giveways in their own zone continue to haunt the Leafs. Francois Beauchemin was a culprit on the Rangers first goal ... Guilty party on the second was Kaberle who allowed Artem Anisimov room in front of Jonas Gustavsson ... Tough luck for the Monster to draw the night the Leafs would come out the flattest for his second start of the season ... Before Armstrong scored, no Leaf other than Kessel had scored since the first period of last Friday’s road game against the Rangers ... What to do with Brett Lebda? In his second game as a Leaf, the defenceman struggled in his own end at times. His ability to jump up in the play is an asset, however.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca


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