Defence, goalies letting down Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Keeping the puck out of their own net was not supposed to be a problem for the 2006-07 Maple Leafs, especially with the off-season additions of goalie Andrew Raycroft and defencemen Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill.

Instead, most pre-season prognosticators figured the difficulties facing the Paul Maurice-led Leafs would be a lack of offence, since leading man Mats Sundin didn't have a lot of big names in his supporting cast.

In other words, a lot of 2-1 games were expected.

But that hasn't been the case. Far from it.

Goal scoring, while inconsistent, has not been the team's Achilles heel as predicted.

No, it has been the shoddy defensive play that has proven to be a real head scratcher.

Entering play today the Leafs have allowed 121 goals, tying them for second worst in the NHL with the struggling Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. Only the Philadelphia Flyers, whose goalies have been beaten 126 times, have given up more.

Maurice refuses to solely blame Raycroft and backup J-S Aubin for the situation, feeling the entire team has been sloppy in its own end.

But the Leafs head coach did suggest yesterday that goaltending recently has been as inconsistent as the rest of the team's game.

"I think it's been very similar to the play of our hockey team," Maurice said. "We've had some really great stretches and then some strange ones.

"I thought in Carolina the other night Andrew made some great saves which were very difficult, and then we've been beaten by some unusual goals. I don't think J-S was great on the first two that beat him against Tampa or at his best.

"I thought he played great against Boston last month.

"I think it's been a great mirror image of our game at this point. It's not 100% there but you can certainly see the pieces."

Many recent e-mails received by the Toronto Sun concerning the Leafs goaltending issues claim that neither Raycroft or Aubin have stolen games for Toronto this season like Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour have done in the past.

Darcy Tucker disagrees with those theories.

"They've been fine," he said. "We haven't tightened up our play enough and supported them like we should."


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