TORONTO - Ron Wilson’s actions spoke louder than his words on Saturday night — on two occasions.
The Maple Leafs coach refused to look up at the ACC scoreboard in the third period when Don Cherry was on urging the Leafs faithful to stand up and cheer the Canadian Forces personnel at the game. Fair enough. Wilson wasn’t thrilled being called Napoleon by His Loudness last season on Coach’s Corner.
Wilson’s other message delivered without words: He seems to have lost confidence in goaltender James Reimer. Why else would he start Jonas Gustavsson in back-to-back games, and in six straight?
The Monster has played well, but wasn’t exactly lights out in a 3-2 loss to the Sabres on Friday at the First Niagara Center, nor was he against the New York Rangers on Saturday in a 3-0 defeat.
You would think if there was a night Wilson would give Gustavsson a game off it would have been Saturday. In the loss to the Sabres, Gustavsson played well in the later stages after giving up a pair of early goals, including a softie by Paul Gaustad. He gave up three to the Rangers including another softie by Brian Boyle in the second, when he went down too early on the high shot taken from outside the faceoff circle. It’s understandable that Wilson would want to run with a goaltender who’s hot. But Gustavsson has been merely good, not great, lately. Still, the coach keeps starting the Swede.
“I don’t think you can at all fault the goalie (Gustavsson),” said Wilson, when asked if he might start Reimer on Tuesday against the visiting Ottawa Senators. “I’ve got a few days to mull things over.”
Reimer’s status has clearly fallen. Then again, it doesn’t matter who is in net if you can’t score, and the Leafs have two goals in their last two games.
MORE BAD NEWS
Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel have now gone three games without recording a point, while their centre Tim Connolly has gone four.
All three were a minus-2 against the Sabres. Against the Rangers, Kessel and Lupul were minus-2, while Connolly was minus-1.
Connolly was also 1-for-7 on faceoffs. Wilson gave the Rangers credit for the way they shut down the Leafs’ No.1 line.
“Their focus was taking and eliminating the Connolly line, and they did a pretty good job with that,” said Wilson, adding that the unit seemed to lack some energy after Friday night’s game in Buffalo. On top of their lack of scoring, the line has been awful defensively at times.
Nazem Kadri, meanwhile, creates at least three great scoring chances a game. Perhaps it’s time for Wilson to put the young centre on the first power-play unit along with Kessel and Lupul.
SOME GOOD NEWS
The Leafs penalty kill, the worst in the NHL, has been lights out. The Leafs are 11-for-11 on the kill in their last six games while short-handed.
Not to use it as an excuse, but Wilson was understandably baffled by the way the puck bounced around all night. “It was just weird bounces, skip over your stick, or a pass would come out to the point and start bouncing and our defencemen had trouble handling it. I remember Luke (Schenn) in the second period, right in front of the net, the puck bounced right over his stick. You need to be a little bit lucky there. When the puck is bouncing, there’s not much you can do.” ... Wilson said centre Tyler Bozak, who has missed seven games with an upper body injury, is expected back soon, possibly for Tuesday’s game against the Senators, though he wouldn’t say whether Bozak would be inserted back on the first line in place of Connolly ... Rangers winger Brandon Prust picked up an assist, was a plus-2 and delivered six hits ... The unsung hero of the game for New York was defenceman Ryan McDonagh, who was a plus-3, with four hits and two blocked shots. Leafs fans used to think defenceman Anton Stralman was soft. Stralman blocked five shots in front of Martin Biron. The Leafs Carl Gunnarsson also blocked five.
It was Canadian Forces Night, with soldiers and sailors honoured throughout the game. After, all the Forces in attendance were invited on to the ice for a group photo and to meet the team. The Leafs wore camo sweaters during the pre-game warm- up as a tribute to the Canadian Forces. Camo sweaters are available for sale at Real Sports Apparel, with 20% of the proceeds going toward the MLSE Team Up Foundation. Former Leaf tough guy, Dave (Tiger) Williams, an honorary Sgt. Major, dropped the puck in the opening faceoff, arriving at centre ice on a Canadian Forces G wagon ... One of the best songs played prior to Leafs games on Sirius Satellite Radio is Gotta Have It by Kanye West and Jay-Z. Just curious — the beginning of the song, is that the same tune played by Pip in the 1956 Warner Brothers classic Moby Dick?