Little to cheer about

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice wants to see a return to a more simpler game at the ACC for...

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice wants to see a return to a more simpler game at the ACC for the second half. (Toronto Sun File/Michael Peake)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

The Maple Leafs insist they aren't vexed at playing in front of an Air Canada Centre full of wildly cheering, blue and white-clad fans.

But the fact remains that this season's edition of the Leafs could easily become just the third in franchise history to record more wins on the road than at home.

While the Leafs have manufactured a 12-9-3 record away from the ACC this season, their home mark is a disappointing 10-12-3.

It has become commonplace for the fans at the ACC, as they sweat out Andrew Raycroft's first save, whether the Leafs will miss an early goal because some attempted razzle-dazzle play went awry, or whether the increasingly frustrated players get into penalty trouble.

And the more the team wastes precious points in the standings, the more it incurs the wrath of its supporters.

"I think our team is a little bit younger than the Toronto teams of the past and because of that, they probably feel that (home pressure) more," coach Paul Maurice said.

SIMPLICITY

"Yes, we have to be statistically better at home to make the playoffs in the second part of the season for the final push. I hope we can take some of the things we do well on the road, the simplicity in our game, and bring it home."

That was evident when Raycroft -- who has a sparkling 11-5-1 road mark, even after Saturday night's 8-2 disaster in Pittsburgh -- backboned big wins in Florida and Tampa earlier in the week.

When asked to explain the home-road Jekyll-Hyde trend, the Leafs tend to fall back on the excuse that they are obliged to give fans their entertainment dollar.

"Sometimes it looks like we're trying to do too much out there to satisfy them," defenceman Pavel Kubina said. "Sometimes that doesn't work."

Maurice said that is a hard habit for any team to break in a building that is packed every night.

"The teams that are dominant (on home ice) create a positive feeling and things are easy for them," he said. "At home, you hang on to the puck longer, your shifts are longer and you want to do a little bit more. That's based on honesty and having the right idea, but doesn't always have a great result.

"I don't think there is a great disparity in the style we play, home and road. The guys want to play well at home and they certainly enjoy it. At the start of the season, we were really good, maybe because some of our veterans, the Mike Pecas and Darcy Tuckers, have been around enough to raise their game. They know how to feed off the home crowd."

The Leafs play 17 of their final 33 games on the road, including five of their first six following the all-star break.


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