February 29, 2012
What's left to say about these Maple Leafs?Team's recent play speaks volumes
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - After watching the Maple Leafs grope around like a drunk looking for the keyhole, we went back to Tuesday morning’s Toronto Sun to make sure we’d read all that blue and white blarney correctly:
• GM Brian Burke: “I think it’s remarkable that the players have kept their focus throughout this time”
If 1-8-1 is focused, we’d hate to see the Leafs distracted. The trade deadline had passed, the cloud lifted and the rumour-mongering media would no longer be hounding the fragile players. Yet they lost 5-3 to a Florida team without top gun Kris Versteeg and looked as fumble-fingered as ever in the crucial opening minutes where they fell behind 2-0 for the fifth straight game, No start, no finish.
• Goaltender James Reimer: “There’s no need to panic.”
The 19,420 fans at the ACC skipped that and went right to torch and pitchfork mode, roasting Reimer for two goals on two shots and then the main course, coach Ron Wilson. One e-mailer said he was disappointed Burke didn’t install Dallas Eakins or Randy Carlyle on the bench between the first and second periods.
“Frustrating, but understandable,” Wilson said of hearing the loudest-ever chants to fire him, on the night he tied Pat Quinn for NHL games coached with 1,400.
Burke was in the dressing room afterward, not to hand out pink slips, but to give some visiting suits a tour. But Wilson can’t survive a fourth season out of the playoffs, especially with a healthy roster at crunch time.
“There’s no pressure now except positive pressure from the playoff race,” a glum Wilson said. “And we didn’t help ourselves at all.”
• Defenceman Luke Schenn: “It’s a big game for us tonight. Hopefully we get started on the right foot.”
Schenn stepped right into the cat box instead, his second major first-period faux pas in as many games.
“That’s obviously my fault, I messed up really badly first shift,” the contrite Schenn said. “One hundred per cent, I’ll take the blame for that. It was a routine play, a normal D to D play to move the puck to the wall. I have no excuse for it.”
It would help though if Reimer could be a bit more prepared for these foul-ups. You don’t expect to make a game-saving stop 10 seconds in, but he’s had plenty of warning the way the Leafs have opened the past few nights.
• Winger Joffrey Lupul: “This is the time of year when you shouldn’t have bad games.”
Lupul has been around the block and it’s high time the few veterans on this young Leafs roster put some of that experience to use.
“It starts with the oldest guys, the guys who have letters on their jerseys,” agreed Mike Komisarek. “It’s up to us to lead by example and to be vocal and say the right things. There’s no excuses. We need results and we need results now. Our season is on the line, every shift, every night.”
Unfortunately, Komisarek and fellow alternate Colby Armstrong are sitting in the press box most nights and captain Don Phaneuf can only offer cliches.
• Burke on the playoff race: “The schedule favours us in terms of the teams that we play. We have control whether we get in or not.”
That hammer is rapidly slipping from the Leafs’ grasp, with the growing conference losses and three-point games creating movement above and below them in the standings. They end the month on Wednesday in Chicago, then have Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia in the first 10 days of March. They are currently playing six of the next seven with teams in the top eight.
After beating Edmonton on Feb. 6 to give them 62 points. The Leafs needed about 15 regulation wins to get to the low 90s for the magic playoff spot. Almost a month later, they desperately need 15 wins — and a whole lot of help.
• Burke on not making any major deadline moves: “I think some people will be disappointed in that, but I’m not.”
Did anyone get the irony of the intermission contest where fans pushed empty shopping carts to centre ice?