January 21, 2012
Leafs' penalty kill no longer tragic
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
Heading into Saturday night’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens, the Maple Leafs had not allowed a power play goal in eight-straight games. That’s a stark contrast to the first half of the year when they had the worst penalty-kill in the NHL.
Tantamount to their success in 2012 has been that they have limited their short-handed situations to just 13 prior to last night’s game, and it all comes down to discipline says defenceman Cody Franson.
“We just try to pay attention to our details a little better,” Franson said after the team’s Saturday morning skate. “We’re trying to do a little bit better job of getting in shot-lanes and we’ve done a really good job of not taking penalties”
Coach Ron Wilson says it’s all about players controlling their sticks and keeping their feet moving.
“Keeping the feet moving and keeping your sticks down,” Wilson said. “It’s surprising when you look around the league how many penalties are stick related. Hooking, slashing and things like that … The one we’ve really eliminated is slashing sticks, which is almost human nature.”
LUPUL’S BANNER SEASON
It’s been a banner year for winger Joffrey Lupul so far. Coming into Saturday night he had 20 goals and 51 points and was tied for third in league scoring. In recognition of how well he has played this season, the winger was named alternate captain for the all-star game, taking place in Ottawa next weekend.
Lupul, who has been hampered by injuries — mostly back related — for a good part of his career, credits his resurgence to finally feeling 100% again.
When Lupul came to the Leafs last February from Anaheim, he was “probably 75%. I didn’t really know at the time. I’d been out so long and was just happy to be back playing,” he said. “Now to feel myself at 100%, definitely I was a step behind last year. It was good to get those games last year ... Then having a full off-season to train and make sure I was 100% and feeling confident about my body, that was big for me.”
HABS HAVE TALENT, BUT MISSING RESULTS
Neither the Leafs or Canadiens were exactly burning it up in the standings heading into Saturday night’s contest. Toronto sat ninth in the East while Montreal was buried all the way down in the 12th spot. But regardless, these two teams always seem to get up for each other.
“We play Montreal more than any other team and have a great rivalry going way back in history,” defenceman Luke Schenn said. “No matter what the standing are or how many points each team has, it’s always going to be a great rivalry. It’s a game that’s really easy to get up for and the fans help make it that extra bit special.”
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf agreed with Schenn’s assessment.
“It’s Saturday night in Toronto, Toronto-Montreal. They are fun games to be a part of,” Phaneuf said. “I think the biggest thing with them is they just haven’t gotten results this year. They’ve got talent, they’ve got a lot of speed, so we definitely respect them.”
Ron Wilson says it doesn’t matter who you are playing, you always have to be prepared. So it mattered little to the Maple Leafs heading into Saturday night’s game that Montreal was coming off a 5-4 shootout loss on Friday or that the Canadiens were buried in 12th place in the East.
“We’re not good enough to overlook anybody,” Wilson said. “You could be going up against any team and the coaches will tell you the same thing, you have to be prepared. You have to prepare the same way.”