TORONTO - Before the season began, the promise from the Leafs was that they wouldn’t let another month that ends in “R” turn rotten.
It was their undoing a year ago, of course, and if they were to contend for a playoff spot, it couldn’t happen again.
Though they salvaged a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, the Leafs are in danger of doing just that. They have six points in eight December games so far and clearly have to get things moving the other way in a hurry.
“We’re going to work through this as a group,” Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We’ve got the guys in here and are confident in our team.
“We’ll get focussed on the two games before Christmas. We’re not looking at what’s going to happen in January and February.”
If there is frustration beyond not being able to get James Reimer a win following a big night in the Leafs net, the captain isn’t saying.
“We’re not frustrated at all,” Phaneuf said. “We’re not happy but I don’t think there’s any frustration, I think that’s the wrong word.”
You know who excuses are for, but the Leafs had a few on Monday, not the least of which was the Kings second goal in which Kings defenceman Drew Doughty appeared to let the puck slip out of the Leafs zone and thus offside. Initial replays weren’t conclusive but it looked like the Kings might have got a break. “It sure looked like it. It’s hard to pinpoint it on video,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “The linesman was right there so you have to trust the call.” ... The Leafs get a fail on their three-games-in-four-nights stretch, losing all of them. The weariness was magnified by the makeup of the lineup in the third one as Colby Armstrong admitted to the team in the afternoon that he had a concussion after vomiting and having blurry vision and David Steckel still ill. As a result, Wilson had to put both Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill in the lineup and stuck mostly with three lines ... The Kings had to be a little road-weary as well so the Leafs had no excuse for being outshot 16-4 in the second period ... The Leafs aren’t going to go anywhere until they find some offence. Los Angeles came into the game having scored two goals or less in their previous 11 games so the task was right in front of them ... There was better puck movement on the Toronto power play at times, but they couldn’t score in five tries.
Even after the Leafs tied it at 2-2 early in the third period, the Kings didn’t show a great deal of interest in pressing the play, content it seemed to take their chances in overtime ... After such a dull second, Wilson abandoned his line-change experiment and put Tyler Bozak back on the Joffrey Lupul-Phil Kessel line ... Little doubt what the play of the game was: Mikhail Grabovski’s perfect pass to a hard-driving Matt Frattin, who easily converted it for the tieing goal ... Strong offensive game by John-Michael Liles, who was rewarded with his fourth goal of the season, but his first at the ACC ... Rosehill, a healthy scratch for 18 games, didn’t waste long getting down to business in a first-period scrap with Kyle Clifford. Lot of punches and some blood splattered on the ice afterward ... Freaky bounce on the game’s opening goal when a dump-in by Doughty took a terrible turn off the end glass right onto the stick of Justin Williams, who easily deposited it past Reimer. Combine that with the potential offside on the second Kings’ goal and the bounces didn’t exactly go the Leafs’ way ... Might Wilson be losing his patience with Philippe Dupuis on the PK? Didn’t see any time on the unit in the first ... No surprise really, but Orr logged just 3:45 ice time while Rosehill had 3:33 ... No points for NHL scoring leader Kessel but he did have five shots on net, one less than Lupul ... Sign you might want to tighten up your D? The Leafs have now given up 40 shots or more six times ... It didn’t look good for the Leafs after 40 minutes trailing 2-1. The Kings are now on an incredible 68-0-4 run when leading after two ... Bozak’s impressive offensive season continued with another assist. The centre has five points in his past three games giving him seven goal and 16 assists in 31 games. That’s just nine points less than the 32 he managed in 82 games last season.
Management quietly remains high on Norwegian prospect Sondre Olden, who just returned from the world junior Division I championship in Germany where he scored two goals and six assists in five games. Olden is back with the OHL’s Erie Otters were he plays left wing with another Leafs prospect, Gregg McKegg ... The Leafs top pick from 2010, Brad Ross, didn’t spend too much time feeling sorry for himself for being a late cut of the Canadian world junior team. In his first game back to the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, Ross had two goals and two assists.