Even blame game failing Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn tries to make his point on the diagram board at yesterday's...

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn tries to make his point on the diagram board at yesterday's practice. (Toronto Sun/Veronica Henri)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Not only are the Maple Leafs losing games, they are running out of what traditionally have been their best excuses.

- They kill too many penalties assessed by Leaf-leery officials: In each of its three one-goal losses, Toronto has enjoyed more power-play chances than the opposition. The three-game total is 2-for-22 on the power play, part of a 9-for-66 skid since a spate of multi power-play goal games in mid-November. In the three recent losses, the Leafs have given up at least one power play goal, killing 13 of 17.

- The schedule is too arduous: The three defeats came at home, where the Leafs are parked for 14 days.

- Injuries: Mats Sundin is the only top player to have spent time on the reserve list and he has been back for a month. Defenceman Staffan Kronwall is almost recovered after two weeks off with a knee injury. If Alexander Khavanov misses tonight's game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, he'll be the first core blue-liner to miss any time this year.

- The Leafs' environment is too stifling: The team was treated to extra time off in Florida prior to a southern sojourn. The past two practices lasted barely an hour and those Leafs who have chosen to honour their media obligations the past week have seen a low turnout, with only two newspapers and one TV camera on hand yesterday.

Shouldn't there be more accountability here, some payback for coach Pat Quinn's trust?

"That's not a conscious thing that evolves, where they say: 'We're treated nice, therefore (we'll play better)'," Quinn said. "But maybe in an unconscious way, you get too relaxed.

"We're not okay right now. We have to work a different way to get okay again. They have a feeling that they're a pretty good team and they can be, but we're not right now."

The players did take some responsibility for their actions following Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, with captain Mats Sundin calling a players meeting.

But forward Jason Allison said it won't take much to turn the ship around.

"You guys talk about the trouble with the power play like it's a national disaster, but just a few games ago it was (statistically) the best in the National Hockey League," Allison said.

"In Los Angeles (a few years ago), we did have the best power play in the league, but we had stretches just like this. I'm not saying we don't care about this stuff, but I also don't think it's panic-button time, either."

The Leafs wasted seven power plays against the Stars.

"In one-goal games where you get the extra power-play chance, that's won us the game before," Quinn said. "Now our defence is dropping down (too low to avoid being crowded at the point). You could've thrown a blanket under all nine guys on the ice in front of the net.

"We have a couple of guys trying so hard to pass and set up plays that they don't even take shots. One of our power-play guys has been a shooter his whole career (he seemed to be referring to Jeff O'Neill) and went five or six minutes without a shot. It's not his fault, we're just all out of whack."


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