Secondary scoring needed on road
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward (C) and teammate Tomas Kaberle stop Toronto Maple Leafs' Joey Crabb short of the goal during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Raleigh, North Carolina November 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Ellen Ozier)
Considering that the Maple Leafs play five of their next six games on the road, including three more on this trip, there could be trouble on the horizon.
Why? Their best players — Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul — have not been nearly as productive away from the Air Canada Centre as they have been in it.
Kessel scored a pair of third-period goals in a 3-2 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, pushing his NHL-leading totals to 16 goals and 29 points.
But Kessel has just five goals and five assists in 10 road games. Lupul, with an assist in Carolina, has 11 points in 10 road games.
Unfortunately, Kessel and Lupul represent the good news when it comes to road scoring. Defenceman John-Michael Liles has nine road points, but no healthy forward, other than Kessel and Lupul, has more than four.
Secondary scoring has been a problem for the Leafs, and it could become more magnified. Maybe not a good time to remind Leafs Nation that the Leafs, who visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, were shut out in both of their games in Tampa last season.
There’s no sugar-coating the horrible decision of both Liles and Cody Franson to jump into the Carolina zone late in a one-goal game. Both Leafs defencemen did, and as a result, Eric Staal had a clear breakaway. Ben Scrivens stopped the shot, but so badly caught were Liles and Franson that Jeff Skinner was untouched when he beat Scrivens on the rebound for the winning goal. The brain cramp of Liles and Franson cost the Leafs at least one point ... Two hours might not seem like a lot, but for the Leafs, it was plenty. An opening faceoff just after 5 p.m. robbed them of two more hours of rest after they arrived early in the morning following a big win over Washington on Saturday. There should be no excuses in professional sports, but mentally, the Leafs were off. David Steckel made a brutal giveaway during a Hurricanes power play, sending the puck up the middle of the ice in the Toronto zone, and Joey Crabb tried to chip the puck out to himself for a breakaway. That was intercepted by Chad LaRose and the Hurricanes got a scoring chance ... Unlike some of his previous starts, usually at home, Scrivens had no nerves to wash away in the opening minutes. Scrivens snared a slapshot by Jay Harrison on the game’s first shift, one that was heading for the corner of the net. With the performances of Scrivens in Carolina and Jonas Gustavsson in Toronto the night before, the heat on general manager Brian Burke to acquire a goalie with experience has been turned down a couple of notches ... Kessel’s development defensively is something that all the Ron Wilson haters out there should take into consideration. Kessel hustles on every shift, and not only when there is a scoring chance. He negated completely a Carolina 2-on-1 when he raced to check Tim Brent, who was open ... Tim Connolly failed to capitalize on two glorious opportunities in the third period, but after two injuries, he is finding a rhythm. Wilson didn’t know Connolly much before the Leafs signed the 30-year-old in July, but Wilson has been impressed with the veteran’s off-ice work ethic ... How will the Leafs miss defenceman Mike Komisarek, who could be gone for as much as two months because of a broken arm? He was tied for second on the team with 39 blocked shots and was third with 37 hits. His plus-7 mark in road games was tops among Leafs players.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Burke joined Twitter on the weekend (@LeafsBB20), and people were falling over themselves to follow the Leafs boss. Just not clear why — there’s little chance Burke will have anything revealing to say, especially where Leafs injuries are concerned. Wilson has been on Twitter for weeks (@coachrw63), and usually his tweets involve nothing more than taking playful shots at some of his players such as Colby Armstrong and Mike Brown. Useful team information? None ... With Sidney Crosby back in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup on Monday, it’s time to leave Leafs forward David Steckel alone. Steckel’s hit, which appeared to be accidental, on Crosby last Jan. 1 started Crosby’s path to a concussion and game inactivity for the past 10½ months. Every time there was a step forward or back in Crosby’s recovery, reporters wanted to know what Steckel, who was with Washington when he collided with Crosby, thought. It got to be a little much ... Harrison, who opened the scoring, might have been a university professor in another life. A history nut and voracious reader, Harrison once was asked about his personal highlights when he played for Canada at the 2001 world junior championship in Moscow. His response? Seeing the markers that indicated how close the Germans advanced to Moscow during World War II ... Harrison presents a solid argument that not all players develop quickly. The Whitby native was a stalwart with the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League, but six-plus seasons in the American Hockey League and one in Switzerland were required for him to become an NHL regular. He played 20 games in parts of three seasons with the Leafs, most recently in 2008-09 and took up a permanent place on the Carolina blue line last season.