Defence top priority

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:22 PM ET


 The Maple Leafs are facing a quandary heading into their do-or-die Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators tonight.

 Do they try to open it up to score a few more goals at the expense of their defensive play?

 Or do they continue playing a defence-first type game, hoping that goaltender Eddie Belfour continues to hold the fort?

 The Leafs had the fourth most explosive offence in the NHL this season with 242 goals but have managed only 10 goals in six playoff games against the Senators.

 Defensively, Belfour has been the saving grace against Ottawa -- which led the league in goals with 262. But his teammates have done a decent job of keeping the Sens from getting many point-blank or screened shots on goal.

 WIDE-OPEN GAME SUITS SENS

 The consensus around the Leafs dressing room yesterday was that it would be folly to abandon the defence-first scheme against the high-flying Senators -- who probably would like nothing better than a wide-open game.

 "We've got to score goals, but we've got to play sound defensively as well," forward Mikael Renberg said. "I think that's going to be even more important."

 Added winger Matt Stajan: "I don't know if you want to open it up early in the game. They've got a lot of weapons, as do we, but you don't want to have a (wide-open) game like that in a Game 7. I don't think we're going to change anything, we're just going to have to try to create more traffic in front of the net and get some more scoring chances."

 One player who would like to see the Leafs snap out of their offensive funk is defenceman Bryan McCabe.

 "We've got a lot of firepower in this room and hopefully we can have a good start and establish our forecheck early and maybe turn the tables a little bit," he said. "The last time (Game 6) we might have sat back a little bit, trying to defend, and that's not our game. We're a team that likes to forecheck, likes to hit and cycle down low and we've got to establish that early.

 "They're a great team and we have to defend pretty hard, but hopefully we can generate a little more offence and a little pressure on Lalime," Renberg said. "He's a great goalie, but I think our goalie is better. So we've got to make sure we get more shots on net."


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