Leafs' bad habits lead to losses

Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson looks out from the bench during a game against the Panthers at...

Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson looks out from the bench during a game against the Panthers at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 8, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:42 PM ET

TORONTO - Ron Wilson could see this free fall coming.

During the second intermission of Toronto’s 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday, the Maple Leafs coach warned his players that their bad habits were being covered up by some wobbly goaltending by the opposition.

Indeed, in the Columbus game and in the team’s previous victory, a 5-3 triumph over the Devils, both Martin Brodeur and Steve Mason allowed goals to the Leafs that had distinct odours to them.

Sure, the Leafs were getting wins. But in the process, they were playing sloppy hockey, giving away the puck with regularity.

In the end, it caught up to them.

“It piles up,” Wilson said on Tuesday night.

In their past two home games, the Leafs have been outscored 12-1, resulting in back-to-back losses to the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers. Tuesday night’s 5-1 defeat to Florida marked the first time the Leafs had suffered consecutive defeats all season, something Wilson has been preaching to his players must be avoided.

“What’s happened to us is exactly what (Wilson) told us would happen back in Columbus,” forward Clarke MacArthur said.

The question now becomes: How do you turn the ship around?

WOE-VEMBER BLUES

Wilson was encouraged by the scoring chances his team generated. The Leafs ended up with 39 shots ... The coach also liked Luke Schenn’s game after the defenceman spent Saturday night watching the Bruins game from the press box. “He had seven hits, many of which made the guy pay a price.” Wilson added it was unfortunate that Schenn was on the ice for three Florida goals, quickly pointing out that they were not his fault ... Best Leafs forward was Nikolai Kulemin. While he didn’t have any points to show for it, he was dangerous all night and led all Leafs in shots on goal with six.

BOO WHO?

There was a time not so long ago when you would be assured of hearing jeers during a Leafs game. Remember?: 1) During visits to Ottawa, the thousands of Leafs fans on hand would always boo Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson whenever he touched the puck — in his own home rink, no less! 2) Whenever the Panthers came to the ACC in recent years, former Leaf Bryan McCabe would be showered with catcalls. Unfortunately, those same boobirds have been muzzled the past two weeks. On Oct. 30, a concussed Alfredsson was out of the Sens lineup in Ottawa’s 3-2 victory over the Leafs at Scotiabank Place. Then, on Tuesday night, the Panthers took to the ice without McCabe, who is back at his Florida home enjoying semi-retirement as a man without a team. Who is left for a poor Leafs fan to boo? No worries. They jeered the home side quite often during Tuesday’s stinker against the Panthers.

LEST WE FORGET

Cynics love to berate the attempts of the Leafs organization to provide classy pre-game ceremonies, pointing out that the festivities nowhere near rival those put on by the Montreal Canadiens. But on Tuesday, give MLSEL credit for hitting a home run with their Remembrance Day services. More often than not, the Remembrance Day tribute is done on the same night as the Hockey Hall of Fame game, causing the meaning of the ceremony, rightly or wrongly, to lose some of its lustre. But by separating the two, fans Tuesday could concentrate on the true meaning of Remembrance Day, which is a time to honour those who served fighting for our freedom. Having Ron Beal, a WWII vet who took part in the Dieppe Raid, read “Flanders Field” was a nice touch ... As for the Hall of Fame Game on Saturday against Ottawa, expect the crowd to blow the roof off the joint when the three former Leafs — Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and, of course, Doug Gilmour — are introduced along with fellow inductee Mark Howe.

JUST WONDERING ...

Which defenceman wearing No. 51 at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night would be faster in a skating sprint — the Panthers’ Brian Campbell or the Maple Leafs’ Jake Gardiner? Whichever guy you’d put your money on, you could count on it being an outstanding race ... How interesting would it be to be a fly on the press box wall when hall of famers Bill Torrey and Jimmy Devellano are chatting like they were in the second intermission? Torrey and Devellano were the architects of the New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s, a team featuring stars like Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin that won four consecutive Stanley Cups.

CROSS CHECK

Loudest cheer of the opening 40 minutes came during the Kiss Cam segment on the centre ice video screen when two lovely ladies decided to smooch. The crowd reached a fever pitch when a pair of other ladies puckered up shortly after that, only to have their kiss blocked out by some guy walking in front of them from the concession stands. Party pooper ... Second loudest cheer came late in the first period when veteran Panthers defenceman Ed Jovanovski blew a tire and slid into Jose Theodore, leaving both Florida players sprawled inside their own net.


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