Be assured it will take a lot more than one win — or even four straight such as last year — for these Maple Leafs to talk the talk.
“We learned from last year, don’t let it go to your head and get full of ourselves,” defenceman Luke Schenn said Friday at the MasterCard Centre. “It was nice to get started off on the right foot (with Thursday’s 2-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens), but saying that, we have to build off of it.”
The game was fraught with first-period errors that could have spelled a much different ending had James Reimer not made 14 saves and had healthy doses of last year’s gratuitous bounces.
“I don’t know if they hit posts on some of them, but Reims had his force field up,” joked winger Colby Armstrong. “I don’t know what it was, but the puck stayed out.
“We obviously came out (flat) in the first period. But our effort got better every period. Once we got the two-goal lead, we really locked it down. Guys were sprawling, trying to block shots.
“It’s just Game 1. How many more to go? 81? Now that the first one is out of the way, we can settle down into our game, which is good transition hockey and forechecks.”
The Leaf coaching staff wasn’t letting up on Friday, once again working hard on concepts to get past any neutral zone barricades Saturday’s opponent, the Ottawa Senators, might throw up. Nor are the Leafs figuring Ottawa will be too tuckered from their opening game in Detroit on Friday. All six meetings of this year’s Battle of Ontario have the Sens in action the night before. Toronto’s schedule on the other hand is filled with lots of days off prior to facing their division rivals.
”You can look at it one way, but I know they’ll be looking at it the other (less rust),” Armstrong said.
Coach Ron Wilson is making one lineup change, replacing Jay Rosehill with Colton Orr to get both his enforcers a game before a week-long break that includes a bonding trip to Trenton. But he’s already working on elements of next week’s practices.
“We have to understand that teams know our strengths,” Wilson said. “One of those is our counter-attack, with our speed ability through the neutral zone. If they clog it up, we have to have a Plan B, which is getting the puck deep. We aren’t a big team, so our forechecking has to be a lot more deliberate.”