Leafs need some goals for Christmas

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

TORONTO - If you want to hide a Christmas gift for your favourite Maple Leaf, tuck it inside the opposition’s net.

The Leafs are all around the blue paint, but can’t find their way inside. That’s led to lots of trouble on home ice and a playoff deficit bordering on 10 points that can’t be scaled if it gets any bigger in the New Year.

“Horse s--t luck, a couple of posts in and out and it changes the momentum,” winger Kris Versteeg said after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We have the plays we wanted to do. We had the chances and they didn’t go in. It’s frustrating, because I thought we had a good effort tonight.”

Well, Versteeg and others would have a hard time convincing the more than 19,000 fans at the Air Canada Centre.

With Saturday’s shootout win over Boston now ancient history, the booing picked up in a fury as soon as the Leafs gave up two goals just over a minute apart in the first period. Both came off faceoffs with the Leafs hanging around like blue and white icicle decorations.

When they went through a four-minute power play with a shot on goal, it was open season for the fans on Ron Wilson and the bench. Something plastic was hurled at Francois Beauchemin’s feet as he departed the ice.

“You can’t blame them, the way we’ve played,” the assistant captain said.

The Leafs now have been out-scored 10-3 in the first period the past eight games and have the NHL’s third worst offence. A Mikhail Grabovski goal saved them a seventh shutout loss.

Wilson pegged the evening’s deterioration perfectly.

“If we made a mistake it ended up in the net, the mistakes we made them make, we hit a post or a crossbar.”

Wilson was critical of his team’s play off the draw after losing more than two thirds of the faceoffs.

“The last nine or 10 games, we’ve gone right in the tank (in the dots). We’re not looking for a win, you’re looking for just a tie and we got smoked. And this is from guys getting the job done a month ago. But it’s not just the centres. It’s the other guys (losing) the secondary battles.”

The Flyers were a season-high 68% on the draw. That’s their best performance since Nov. 26, 2005.

Game on

Phil Kessel was 0-for-12 the past 48 hours in losses to Pittsburgh and Philly. “He was getting fed tonight,” Wilson said, not making excuses for his top gun. “He had three or four quality chances. Then it becomes him and the goaltender and (Brian Boucher) made the saves ... It was a sadly familiar script for the Leafs, who started out with some jam in their game, but were quickly frustrated when Boucher turned away their first chances ... Speaking of which, the Leafs had a huge break when Philly rested their new Russian sensation Sergei Bobrovsky and went with Boucher, though Boucher beat the Leafs 5-2 in October ... Colby Armstrong hadn’t even settled in the penalty box when Mike Richards cleanly beat Tim Brent and in no time the puck was relayed to Ville Leino for a goal through J-S Giguere’s wickets ... After the first Flyer goal, Toronto generated some of its best chances ...That’s four points in three games for Grabovski ... Flyers have now won five of six between the teams ... Brett Lebda did not make much of his opportunity with Carl Gunnarsson out.

Ice chips

You have to feel sorry for Giguere these days, trying to get himself back among elite goalies, talking up his young teammates every night and getting such flat starts in return ... Toronto did nothing to improve its ranking as the conference’s worst team in giveaways with 313 coming in, 13 more against the Flyers, some of them embarrassing handouts ... By the end of the second period, Jeff Carter and Richards had won 13 of 15 draws ... Like Mike Komisarek, Jay Rosehill was a scratch with an upper body injury, likely something to do with his bloodied face in the fight the previous night with Eric Godard of the Penguins ... When Komisarek was announced as a scratch, a lusty cheer went up, never a good sign ... Wayne Gretzky was in the press box glad-handing between periods and then got a huge hand when the camera found him and Dad Walter in the seats.


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