Leafs go back to basics

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Backup goaltender Curtis Joseph was holding an on-ice course on the psychological art of the shootout.

Earlier in yesterday's 90-minute Maple Leafs practice at the Air Canada Centre, coach Ron Wilson was urging forwards to drive hard to the net, pretty much foreign territory during the team's first five games.

There was a firm grasp of the obvious in Leafs' land after a winless weekend on the road.

With just nine goals in five games and two shootout losses, all the energy and foot speed the team may have is being wasted without creating scoring chances.

"I pass around as much information to our shooters as I can," said Joseph, who joined Wilson at the whiteboard with a group of 10 Leafs shootout candidates.

"I think I can help in that area. I'm on the other side of the coin and shooters always want to know what the other guys are thinking.

"If I can help a guy score a goal, I feel like you get an assist on the play."

Safe to say, Wilson will take help any way he can get it as the team looks for win No. 2 tonight against the visiting Anaheim Ducks.

ONCE OR LESS

In three of the team's five games, the Leafs have scored once or less.

While the lack of proven scorers was transparent since the start of training camp, the hope was that team speed and aggressive forechecking would lead to enough scoring chances to keep the Leafs in games.

But for the most part, the forwards haven't been nearly aggressive enough driving to the net and creating havoc in front of opposing goaltenders, making a two-goal deficit seem insurmountable most nights.

"We're trying to find ways to score goals ugly," Wilson said.

"There was an example of that the other night -- two of the best offensive players we have in the game now (the Penguins' Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) just threw pucks at the net all night and it resulted in a couple of ugly goals.

"You do that and you hope for a lucky break, chip one in."

"You just have to put it at the net and see what happens," added forward Jason Blake, who leads the team with 24 shots but has scored just once.

"Goalies hate guys that go to the net hard."

As for working on the shootout, Wilson clearly recognizes that if the team is going to have success, often it will come in tight games. And in getting Joseph as guest lecturer, the Leafs coach was hoping to provide his would-be snipers with a mental edge.

"It's poker, that's how Cujo described it," Wilson said. "Calling your bluff.

"It's important to get better at the shootout. If we can keep games close, we can get a bonus point if we win."


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