Room to improve

Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice likes that the club has taken to his simple philosophy that an...

Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice likes that the club has taken to his simple philosophy that an up-tempo, high-pressure forecheck mostly leads to good things. (Toronto Sun File/Craig Robertson)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

His club has won 11 of its first 19 games and will hit its quarter-pole Thursday night in Boston having passed early expectations, but Paul Maurice is not satisfied.

And in the case of the Maple Leafs coach, however, that's fine. If he was completely happy so early in the 2006-07 regular season, only trouble would lie ahead.

"I look at our game and see so much room for improvement," said Maurice, who gave his players yesterday off. "I am very pleased we are not where we want to be because if we were, we would not be good enough to win (in the end). We've got to be a better team at 80 games than we are at 20."

Maurice likes that the Leafs have taken to his simple philosophy that an up-tempo, high-pressure forecheck mostly leads to good things.

The Leafs are creating more turnovers and as a result are getting more scoring chances than usual.

There's a greater emphasis on the five men on the ice playing as one rather than as individuals.

But Maurice wants more, and he wants it more often. He said consistency was a concern, but then caught himself.

"It's not a concern, but it's not where you want it to be," Maurice said.

Centre Michael Peca was asked about the first quarter in general and pointed at consistency as well.

"I can recall only two or three times, maybe four if I tried real hard, where we have had complete games," Peca said. "The most improvement I would like to see is coming to practice and working harder and being sharper. It would make a difference in games."

One trademark left from the Pat Quinn era is the team comes to play with big names out. Pavel Kubina, who has been sidelined with a knee injury and has been in only three games, is slated to be in the lineup Thursday. Losing captain Mats Sundin and Andrew Raycroft has not yet hurt the club.

But with all the good feelings surrounding the Leafs, it's worth noting their record after 19 games is similar to what it was last season, when they missed the playoffs.

But the coach and the players are on the same page with one critical thought:They like the direction the team is heading.

"You can see aspects of our game where we are thinking more," Chad Kilger said.

Whether the early success leads to a contract extension for general manager John Ferguson remains to be seen, but the club is leaning that way.

"We'll get to it when it's right," Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Richard Peddie said.

"We're very pleased with the team."

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SO FAR ...

A look at the Maple Leafs as they near the quarter-pole, which they will hit with their 20th game of the season, Thursday in Boston:

RECORD

2006-07: 11-5-0-3, 25 pts

2005-06: 10-7-0-2, 22 pts

Goals For

2006-07: 69

2005-06: 69

Goals Against

2006-07: 62

2005-06: 69

Power Play

2006-07: 17.1%, 13th in NHL

2005-06: 21.4%, 2nd-

Penalty Killing

2006-07: 86.6%, 9th

2005-06: 80.0%, 24th-

--complete season


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