November 11, 2010
Any goal will do
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Despite being weary from a late-night flight home from Florida, the Leafs spent much of Thursday’s practice at the Mastercard Centre working on little things to snap out of their scoring funk.
And while coach Ron Wilson isn’t about to turn down a highlight reel goal, an ugly one would look good about now.
“It could be a breakaway, it could be a pretty goal, it doesn’t matter,” Wilson said. “But if it’s an ugly one, that would kind of reinforce what the coaches are saying. We’re overpassing, overhandling in situations around the front of the net. An ugly goal would really go a long way.”
Accordingly, much of the practice was spent working on deflections, rebounds and tip-ins as well as on quick-release shots to help avoid the large amount of shots the Leafs seem to get blocked.
The Leaf scored 16 goals in their first four games and needed 11 games to get their next 16.
“We’re confident we can get out of (the slump), but I don’t think we’re very confident with the puck and that shows,” Wilson said. “The last couple of games in particular — misfiring, hitting posts, overpassing the puck when we should be shooting, shooting when we should be passing.”
The absence of captain Dion Phaneuf and forward Colby Armstrong has made for a quieter dressing room for sure and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the team.
“They are kind of the emotional barometers of our team, they keep everybody up,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Armstrong has been told he is “anywhere from three to five weeks away” while recovering from surgery to his finger. Phaneuf is somewhere in the same range. The captain had a longer stay in hospital than anticipated because of some post-surgery complications.
“He had a slight infection right after the surgery so he’s been bedridden and on crutches,” Wilson said of Phaneuf. “But he was around today. He was the first guy at the buffet table.”
With his popular Luke’s Troops segment to honour Canadian military at Leafs home games, defenceman Luke Schenn has an even greater appreciation of Remembrance Day.
“I get a chance to meet some of the people and hear some of the stories, what they’ve done and how many tours they have been in,” Schenn said. “It’s unbelievable and pretty impressive to see how much they are willing to sacrifice.”
While obviously necessary when the team’s struggles are so pronounced, the frequent line changing hasn’t been easy on Leafs forwards. “You want to find and mesh with a couple of guys but it takes time,” Kris Versteeg said. “It was good in practice (Thursday) with (Tyler Bozak) and (Clarke MacArthur). Hopefully we can keep that going ... Another reason for less panic with the Leafs is that two of the losses on their recent streak have come in a shootout ... Schenn on hitting the ice hours after their latest loss: “You come back and work hard and have a good practice. That’s where it all starts. It’s no different than if a golfer is off his game — you go back to the driving range.” ... The Leafs expect to have their hands full with their next opponent — the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. “It won’t be easy,” Wilson said. “But we’ve got to stick with it.”