TORONTO - No one argues Dion Phaneuf has a cannon of a shot, but his trajectory was sometimes faulty during the past two seasons. That had both Leafs and opponents ducking often.
But new power-play partner John-Michael Liles has enjoyed playing point with the captain. Rookie Jake Gardiner had the two power-play assists in Monday’s 4-2 win over Ottawa, however, there were some nice Liles feeds to Phaneuf, who delivered more low, hard shots towards the net.
Liles said it was his fault he didn’t get a couple of the passes in Phaneuf’s “wheelhouse”, but saw nothing wrong if Phaneuf tends to fire high.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Liles said. “A lot of times, goalies are taking away low shots and he’s confident enough that when he is firing it, he’s getting it through. If it goes high, if it goes low, as long as if it goes in, it’s still a goal.
“He’s obviously got a big shot and he’s someone I’m looking for and I’m sure a lot of guys on the team do, too.
“We moved the puck well (Monday) and we generated some chances. We’ll look at the video and I’m sure there are things we can do better. But for a first pre-season game, without having done a whole lot of work on the power play, it was something to build on for sure.”
NO SETBACKS WITH LOMBARDI
Centre Matthew Lombardi has spent the first four days of Leafs camp skating on his own. No word yet on whether he can get into contact drills soon, but neither have their been setbacks as he prepares to mark a year since his severe concussion.
“It was a good practice today,” Lombardi said Tuesday at the MasterCard Centre. “We just do the skates and then they post up the next day’s schedule for me. It’s day to day right now.”
The Leafs are considering trying Lombardi at third line left wing to ease him back once he is cleared.
Coach Ron Wilson is not worried that increased vigilance by officials towards head shots this season will create some confusion between legitimate hits and dangerous tactics.
“You just have to be patient,” said Wilson, whose team was shown a DVD by the league on Monday that outlined a broader interpretation of the previous “blindside” hit. “It’s actually a little bit easier for the referee, because in those situations it wouldn’t be anything but a two-minute penalty. When you watch the video, you know the ones that are absolute head shots. There are a few where they said it was a body check with incidental contact to the head. At full speed it looks like a head shot (but) it isn’t when you slow it down to super-slow motion. So when you take that aspect out, you won’t have people removed from the game who don’t deserve to be.
“There will still be big hits and accidental concussions. That’s just part of the game and I think the players know that.”
Players like forwards Nazem Kadri, Joe Colbourne and Clarke MacArthur played in their second straight game Tuesday night and could do it in a third on Wednesday in Philadelphia if it desired. But a fourth game in as many nights is against league rules. Clubs such as St. Louis do play four in a row this week ... The Leafs’ record in pre-season games the past two years is 12-6-1 prior to Tuesday and 24-23-6 since 2005. What does it mean? Very little, considering they haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 ... First-round pick Stuart Percy struck up a friendship with Liles right away. The icebreaker was Percy’s former St. Michael’s captain Cameron Gaunce, who is now in Colorado and asked Liles to check on Percy after the veteran was traded to the Leafs.
THIS DAY IN LEAFS HISTORY
When the gloves come off in games between the Leafs and the Canadiens, it usually means some knuckles will be bruised.
But not on this date, when a pre-season contest at the Montreal Forum ended with, wait for it, post-game handshakes at centre ice. The last time the teams would have done that was April 22,
1979, when the Habs concluded the playoff meeting with a four-game sweep. The reason for the friendly gestures this time was the looming NHL lockout.
To demonstrate union solidarity Leafs Mike Gartner, president of the NHLPA, lieutenant Ken Baumgartner and other prominent Toronto players such as Doug Gilmour arranged the handshakes with the Canadiens before the game.
“We may wear different jerseys for three hours, but we’re in these talks together,” Baumgartner said later.
But 16,141 fans and Leafs coach Pat Burns were not in on the plan and Burns was flummoxed to see his team embrace the Habs after a 5-3 loss.
“Patrick Roy came over and stuck out his hand, but I had no idea what to do and we both ended up laughing,” Burns said.
The lockout did happen and lasted until January of ’95, when a 48-game season was salvaged.