Leafs better stop losing streak soon
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson and forward Mikhail Grabovski end up in a pile during a game against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Feb. 14, 2012. (STUART DRYDEN/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - It took a while, but the Maple Leafs are officially in a losing streak, the type of which can be a season-killer if allowed to extend much longer.
And itís starting to get awful ugly.
Falling 5-1 to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night was the first time the Leafs have lost four games in a row this season, marking their worst losing streak and one that will be a challenge to end with two more Western Canadian road dates remaining before they return home.
Lengthy losing streaks were what killed the Leafs early last season, a big reason why they were doomed late in the campaign, despite a great run towards the end. In fact, the Leafs hadnít lost four in a row in a stretch of 114 games dating back to early December 2010.
The trick will be finding a way to end it soon and it wonít be easy, especially after the effort in losses to the Flames and Canadiens. The Leafs have to climb right back on the horse Wednesday night in Edmonton. As we have seen in the past on the second night of back-to-backs the Leafs have had trouble finding their legs, a dangerous prospect against the speedy young Oilers.
And at this point, after being outscored 10-1 in their last two games, they donít even want to think about a date in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon.
The Leafs did their best to test Flames goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff throughout, firing 42 shots at the Calgary net, but ultimately troubles in their own end did them in ... Tough spot for Leafs blueliner Mike Komisarek to draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the previous six games. Komisarekís previous visit to the Saddledome resulted in a serious shoulder injury the night after he was named to the U.S. Olympic team for the Vancouver Games. Komisarek eventually had season-ending shoulder surgery to end a miserable first season with the Leafs ... Komisarek had a rough first period on Tuesday, getting caught out of position at his own blue line, leading to a 2-on-1 and the Flames first goal ... Safe to say the Leafs forwards would love the opportunity to play a game or two against the Leafs defence the way they are playing lately. Far too often the Toronto blue liners are caught flat-footed and out of position. On the first Flames goal it was Komisarek, on the third it was Dion Phaneuf who was forced to hook Paul Byron leading to a penalty shot after a flip pass from the Flames zone caught the Toronto defender ... Weíve heard a lot about how Mikhail Grabovski has played well defensively this season. Not Tuesday. At least twice he was easily stripped out of the puck behind his own net, the last time leading to the Flames fourth goal.
Jonas Gustavssonís turn to see if the Leafs have a starting goalie resulted in some big first-period saves to keep his team in it when the Leafs defenders were putting it on a tee for Flames forwards. The Monster has had better moments than on Byronís second-period penalty shot, however, as he played his hand far too early allowing for an easy deke and goal ... Another trip to Calgary, another loss for the Leafs who have now dropped seven in a row at the Saddledome. Toronto hasnít won in Cowtown since Dec. 27, 2002 ...The goal by Montrealís Lars Eller on Saturday was the worst example, but it seems as though forwards are testing Phaneuf more often with their speed. Itís clear that with a quick move to the outside he can easily be beat one-on-one ... Good hustle by Tyler Bozak on the Leafsí first goal. After winning the faceoff to the point, he reported directly to the net and buried a big rebound to get the Leafs back in the net ... Bozakís offence has accelerated the way the Leafs had hoped it would last year and he has now scored a goal in five of his past six games. The Bozak-Phil Kessel-Joffrey Lupul- combined for 11 first-period shots ... When Bozak finally connected, it ended a Leafs scoreless drought of 98 and a half minutes ... David Steckel said it best in a between-periods interview: The first period on a road trip should be among the Leafs best. Instead, they came out flat early, spotting the Flames a 2-0 lead ... How maddening it must be for the Leafs to come off a stretch where they collected 11 of a possible 12 points in six games and have nothing in their last four ... The penalty kill may be shored up, but the Leafs power-play has rarely looked more disorganized and unable to gather sustained possession ... Disorganization in their own end and an inability to clear the puck led directly to the Flames second goal. After Lupul turned it over, the rest of the players ran round for 20 seconds or so before paying the price ... One of these days the Leafs are going to have to play some hockey in the third period. Theyíve yet to score a goal in the final 20 minutes in this four-game losing skid.
The Leafs came into the game on a good run against Western Division opponents this season with an 8-2-3 record. Last season, Toronto was 9-8-1 vs. the West and in 2009-10 they were just 5-12-1 ... This from ace Sun colleague Lance Hornby: Paul Byronís goal in the second period to give Calgary a 3-1 lead was the Flamesí first successful penalty shot vs. the Leafs since Theo Fleury scored on Rick Walmsley on Dec. 11, 1992 .