December 11, 2005
The Leafs are in a drought
By MIKE ULMER
"Once I built a railroad," the hobos sang during the Great Depression. "Now the railroad's done. Brother, can you spare a dime."
Or, of course, a goal.
A week after gathering positive consideration on the question of "can the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup," they can barely score a goal, let alone win a game and they were booed lustily last night by the unhappy patrons of the Air Canada Centre.
Stars 2, Leafs 1. Boom times one week, dustbowl the next.
Last night's loss was the Leafs' third defeat in four contests and there is not much that is pleasant about the math in the Leafs' world.
"Again, a flat start again," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who addressed the team after the game. "We didn't have a very good start, especially at home. They might be the hottest team in the league. We played better in the second and better in the third but again, we just can't put 60 minutes together."
The Leafs met last night after the game to try to find a way.
"I think it's just a matter of us sticking together," defenceman Ken Klee said. "We know we have a good team and unfortunately we're not finding a way to win. We just kind of aired out some concerns to make sure we stick together and find ways to win."
The Leafs sit just three games over the .500 barrier, on the bubble in eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with the New Jersey Devils yet to make their move.
The Leafs spent the game's first 50 minutes in a coma before Sundin broke a six-game goalless slump. The goal, a laser past Dallas goalie Marty Turco, came on a pass from Eric Lindros.
Active last night, Lindros has just one goal in his past 10 games and Leafs coach Pat Quinn put the two together in the later moments of the game to shake something out of either man.
The drought is widespread.
Bryan McCabe is goalless in five and has one for his past 11. Jeff O'Neill is a team-worst minus-11 and without a goal in six games.
Nothing has come from for the support players. Tie Domi has been discussed as a possible scratch, hasn't scored since a week before Halloween. A possible successor, Wade Belak, was in the lineup last night.
Kyle Wellwood, goalless in a dozen, hit the post last night and missed what should have been a dunk shot on a power play.
There is no shame in losing to Dallas. The hottest team in the NHL, the Stars are 13-2 in their past 15 games.
But aside from the always irascible Darcy Tucker, the Leafs were not passionate nor committed. Aside from a terrific hit by Carlo Colaiacovo on Bill Guerin with three minutes left the Leafs did not initiate much contact. They were easy to play, and not terribly hard to beat.
The Stars got all they would need in the first period. Jon Klemm stepped out of the penalty box six minutes in and gunned toward the Leafs blue line where he took in a long pass and beat Leafs goalie Ed Belfour on the second try.
Mike Modano, the Stars' dominant player, orchestrated the second marker when he fetched a loose puck in the Leafs end, stepped around Tom Kablerle and hit Jere Lehtinen with a pass. Having escaped Bryan McCabe's check, Lehtinen was free to rip home his 15th of the season.
Ed Belfour, seeking a win to move past Terry Sawchuk on the career wins list, was the Leafs' best player, which, of course, is good and bad.
"I think we have to be a little more assertive," Tucker said. "We're there. I thought we played better in the second and better still in the third. We're coming around a little."
They need to come around a lot.
CAN ANYONE SCORE?
- It's no big surprise the Leafs are struggling. Here's a few players who can't find the net of late:
1 goal in 10 games
1 goal in 11 games
0 goals in 6 games
0 goals in 12 games
1 goal in 9 games