November 26, 2011
Leafs Locker: Cool hand Jake
By Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
Ron Wilson, a head coach in the National Hockey League since 1993, doesn’t think he has tutored as good a young defenceman as Jake Gardiner.
“I have had some young defencemen, but none that seemed to play so cool and calm,” Wilson said. “Usually there are periods of a game where a guy loses his focus or his concentration, and I have not seen that. I had Sergei Gonchar (in Washington) and Oleg Tverdovsky (in Anaheim), and I know I am going to miss some others, but those are the two that come to mind.
“Jake, for someone who appears to be an offensive defenceman, has nailed the defensive part and he just has to figure out how to utilize the assets he has, his skating, passing, shooting. He has not (yet) put all of that together.”
The tandem of Gardiner, 21, and Luke Schenn, 22, was the Leafs’ best in a 4-3 shootout win in Dallas on Friday night. Gardiner played a Leafs-high 28 minutes 34 seconds.
Gardiner’s demeanour — Wilson said the Minnesota native has “ice in his veins” — has led to an interesting nickname from his Leafs teammates. They call him “Silver Stick,” as he carries himself like someone who has played 1,000 games in the NHL. Those who do receive a silver stick for that milestone.
“They say that I act like a guy who has played 1,000 games,” Gardiner said, “but I don’t think that I do.”
The head-scratching in the Ducks dressing room has been going on for more than a month, and it’s no different for Corey Perry, who was the Hart Trophy winner last season.
“We wish we had answers,” Perry said. “We’ve been trying to find ways to get out of this funk, and we have said all along that we need a spark, we need something to get going. We played well for spurts (against Chicago on Friday), but in the end it got away from us, and it has been kind of what has been going on all year.”
Perry has nine goals and eight assists in 22 games after recording 98 points in 82 games last season.
Wilson doesn’t have to remind his players that the Ducks’ swoon — two wins in 17 games — might not mean much when the puck drops.
“We know that we’re going to be facing a hungry, desperate team that will do anything to try to win a hockey game,” Wilson said. “They are going to come out angry and we have to be ready for that in the first period.”
The Ducks are the only NHL team that Leafs sniper Phil Kessel has not scored against. Kessel has played against Anaheim three times ... Ducks coach Randy Carlyle on what he sees in the Leafs: “Lots of confidence, a team that is beaten up, but finding a way to get offence. Our job will be to get our game to a place where we feel comfortable playing for 60 minutes, and we have not been able to do that for a while. It has been frustrating for our group.”