Hot seat cooling for McCabe

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Bryan McCabe noted the temperture at the Air Canada Centre as he went out for introductions.

At first he sensed he should insulate himself, perhaps with ear muffs.

"There were a few jeers, a few 'I love you's' and one 'you suck McCabe'," he laughed. "But it's all about how you react and bounce back."

McCabe, on the hot seat for poor play and now the poster boy for management's big-contract, under-achieving lineup, was party to Florida's second goal in an ominous 2-0 lead for the visitors. But as the night wore on, the old McCabe surfaced, scoring a second-period powerplay goal, taking charge with physical play and the Leafs began to show the benefits of two days of own zone practice.

"We laid a lot more body on," McCabe said. "That made it harder for them to move around."

Coach Paul Maurice was relieved his sermons on the 'switch off', (when defencemen and low forwards change places to pursue cyclists around the net) didn't fall on deaf ears.

"We actually had a couple of guys yelling at each other that they were going to cover, which at least was an improvement on the last game when no one said anything," Maurice said. "We even had guys on the bench yelling about the switch offs, even though they couldn't be heard.

"I thought Bryan handled things well the past couple of days (since an own goal in Buffalo made his name mud in Leaf Nation). He wasn't passive about it, he stood up and said the right things. Tonight, he got a fair shake, he threw some hits and he got the goal."

But make no mistake, the Leafs have a long way to go. There were a whopping 23 missed shots recorded and 23 give-aways last night against a less than stellar opponent. Had Vesa Toskala not stopped Jay Bouwmeester's partial breakaway last night, panic in the streets might have been at War of the Worlds level by this morning.

"It's not as though I'm saying 'things are okay with this team'," Maurice said. "But I know how good we can be.

"We haven't had a bad night in goal from Vesa or Andrew Raycroft and we didn't have shots up in the 40s and 50s tonight. I believe in this team and I believe it's a good one."


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