Let Scrivens focus
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens stands in his crease after allowing a goal to the Ottawa Senators during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto November 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
Conspiracy theorists can relax: There’s nothing cryptic about the Leafs’ current policy of not allowing rookie goaltender Ben Scrivens to speak with the media following the morning skate on game days.
Scrivens was not made available to the media Saturday prior to the Leafs’ game against the Ottawa Senators, but Leafs coach Ron Wilson said the move was made to ensure the goalie focuses on the task at hand.
“Are you allowed to talk to starting pitchers before a game?” Wilson answered the question about Scrivens with a question. “We want him to have his focus primarily on his start and not on other questions he has to answer or whatever other doubts people might put in his mind.
“Obviously he’s an easy quote and he’ll sit there for two hours and answer all your questions. I don’t think it’s the right way to prepare for a game. He’s got to go in and keep his mind fresh.”
It’s been a couple of seasons since he was a big part of the Phoenix Coyotes’ drive to the postseason, but Leafs forward Matthew Lombardi has vivid memories of what makes the team so difficult to play against.
The current edition of the desert dogs is similar in the emphasis on defence dictated by coach Dave Tippett. The Leafs certainly found that out in a 5-1 loss last season and expect more of the same Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.
“They are a team that’s really structured,” Lombardi said on Monday. “They play a really strict system and everyone buys into it, everyone does their job.
“I don’t think they’re looking to be a flashy team or run and gun. They keep it simple. When I was there, that’s the way it was.”
Wilson expects a relentless effort from the Coyotes and he’s quite familiar with Tippett-coached teams from his time in the Western Conference.
“You’re going to work hard for 60 minutes, you pretty much know that,” Wilson said. “They’re very disciplined in their own end and the neutral zone and we’ve got to stick to our game plan and not veer off it or get frustrated.
“It can be a long night if you’re turning pucks over, I can tell you that.”
Wilson alluded to what he called a minor injury that continues to bother Tyler Bozak. Though the team hasn’t been specific on the nature of the injury, the coach said it has affected Bozak’s work in the faceoff circle, which could lead to some obvious conclusions ... Captain Dion Phaneuf did not participate in Monday’s practice at the MasterCard Centre, which went close to 90 minutes. Wilson said the minute-munching defenceman was given a “maintenance day.” ... They don’t play that often, of course, but the Leafs haven’t defeated the Coyotes since Oct. 23, 2003 ... Scrivens said he hadn’t been told if he would get the start Tuesday. “I’m still living day-to-day,” Scrivens said. “My approach hasn’t changed at all. I come to the rink, I work hard and try to learn as much as I can and get better every day.” ... The Coyotes figure to be a tough team for the Leafs to wake up their offence. They have won five of their past seven with goalie Mike Smith sporting a 5-0 record ... Though he hasn’t scored in 10 games and didn’t get a shot on net on Saturday, Leafs forward Nik Kulemin doesn’t sound too worried about his struggles. “I just have to work hard and have better finish,” Kulemin said on Monday. “It’s nothing to worry about.”