Quinn better get it together

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:27 PM ET

 Pat Quinn clearly was disappointed, and he should be.

 But not only with his players -- with himself.

  Of all that didn't work for the Maple Leafs in Game 1 of this apparently epic series with the Ottawa Senators -- the team's defensive play, lack of discipline, questionable effort, inability to generate offence and absence of savvy -- just as apparent was Quinn's stubborn and sometimes short-sighted approach to coaching.

 This is what you get with Quinn, now and forever.

 A better coach between games than he is during them. A coach who often refuses to match lines, rarely makes in-game adjustments and doesn't necessarily reward those worthy of rewarding.

 Go back to Game 1 to understand.

 Joe Nieuwendyk has been the Leafs' best forward the past six weeks, maybe longer. He has speed that belies his age. The more you watch Nieuwendyk play, the more you can appreciate the varied elements of his game and the different ways in which he can beat opponents.

 MORE ICE

 But eight forwards received more ice time in Game 1 than the Leafs' top forward.

 How does that make sense?

 Quinn will explain it by saying too much of the game was broken into segments of special teams play and because he doesn't often employ Nieuwendyk while killing penalties, it meant more ice for Robert Reichel and less for one of the Leafs' real leaders.

 But as Don Cherry screamed about it on Hockey Night In Canada just as any overt Leaf fan would scream, if you have a choice between Reichel and Nieuwendyk on a 5-on-3 penalty kill against a swift Ottawa team, who would you choose?

 Quinn picked Reichel. Cherry, from his perch, loudly disagreed.

 It wasn't only the lack of playing time for Nieuwendyk that made little sense. It was Quinn's built-in belief that line matching is more a detriment than it is a successful strategy. Even though Scotty Bowman matched lines. Even though Ken Hitchcock matches lines. Even though Pat Burns and the late Roger Neilson matched lines.

 Even though Quinn beat the Senators once upon a time by matching the quitter, Shayne Corson, against the quitter, Alexei Yashin.

 Quinn, with last change at home, never attempted to get his first line, which includes Mats Sundin and Gary Roberts (and may not include Mikael Renberg tonight) away from Ottawa's top pair of defencemen and, most notably the long-armed, long-legged, probable Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara.

 So you're the coach and you make a choice.

 You can play Sundin against Chara head-to-head or play him against another defence pair. Quinn may have to alter that choice tonight or fear jeopardizing his team's chances of winning this best-of-seven series.

 For every strength Quinn supplied and for all the loyalty he shows his players -- he does stick with them no matter how or when they mess up -- he has to be more pro-active.

 He can't keep playing Renberg if he takes questionable penalties. He can't show faith in Alexei Ponikarovsky, who took a penalty behind the play that cost the Leafs any hope of coming back. He can't show blind faith in waiver wire pickup Chad Kilger, who still shows on occasion why more than half the league passed on him.

 And he has to pick his spots with Calle Johansson tonight, whose decision-making in Game 1 demonstrated why the Washington Capitals retired him.

 Yeah, the Maple Leafs need more from their players tonight.

 Much more effort.

 Much more grit.

 Much more intelligence.

 And they need a sharper game from their head coach as well.


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