Leafs playing in fear

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

They've tried benchings, bag skates and callups, while burning through three goaltenders in two weeks.

But the Maple Leafs can't get in the W column except the one marked woes. Those are piling up quickly on general manager Brian Burke's plate as he ponders what's wrong on the ice, in the dressing room and behind the bench. His 0-5-1 club was booed off the ice at the Air Canada Centre again last night.

Whatever the cause, in almost every game this team can't or won't take the initiative, score first, get the big save or stay out of the box. The latest reversal was last night in the second of back-to-back tests that once held promise of the season's first victory. However, the Colorado Avalanche had the hammer and took a 4-1 decision, bookended by Monday's 7-2 loss in New York.

The Leafs have another three days of practice before those Rangers return and another week after that. They must make better use of the time than the 72 hours that preceded these latest three losses in four nights.

"We have to do a complete reset," coach Ron Wilson said. "The worst is already happened in terms of how you can start a season. We have to step away until Thursday.

"After our first game, we got lit up and lost a bit of our mojo coming out of pre-season.

"We're a little afraid to make mistakes, we're tight, and that's when you make mistakes. We're not taking charge of the game. We're touching our toe in the water to see if the water's cold. I can tell you it's cold."

The fan reaction certainly is frigid and defenceman Mike Komisarek understands the backlash.

"It's just not enough from all of us, first and foremost, myself included," said the defenceman and alternate captain. "Every time we get some momentum, the other team scores or we take a bad penalty."

He was sitting off for a Darcy Tucker goal and had another bounce in off his helmet past goalie Joey MacDonald.

"A few of us are trying too hard instead of simplifying our game," Komisarek said. "The easy thing to do is hang our heads. We've shown in pre-season (a 6-3 mark) we can play against the top teams. We to go out again and not play with hesitation."

It was not the night to lay another egg at the ACC, with a ceremony for hall of famer Ted Kennedy and even louder cheers for the return of a fired up Tucker, who had a goal and assist. Burke and Wilson played their Marlie card earlier in the day, calling up Tyler Bozak to join returning Frat Pack linemate Viktor Stalberg on a line with Lee Stempniak that at least had its moments. Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman were benched, though Bozak will be returned said Wilson.

MacDonald had the start in goal, but was saddled with the same error-prone defence that helped give Vesa Toskala an inferiority complex. MacDonald made a couple of the early saves that Wilson wasn't getting from Toskala, who will be out 10 days to two weeks with a knee injury, but he did nothing to stop fans from checking to see when Jonas Gustavsson will be back.

But even The Monster, with five goals against in five periods, can't be counted on as the saviour the way the rest of the team in under-performing.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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