Raking Leafs

Mixing metaphors and casting cliches about hockey and the Maple Leafs for the ether's pleasure since MCMLXVII.

12/22/2006

Goals for, or Goals Against? That is the question

The former was the popular choice in the pre-season, and continues to be the favorite meme for most league observers, to the point of ignoring the facts. If you don't believe me, go check some of those power rankings. The seven game skid in which they scored 9 goals, seems to be the expected performance level of the Leafs this year. Which is just silly.

Today, Mike Zeisberger acknowledges the most obvious flaw to recent editions of the Leafs: defense. And many thought the summer acquisitions would solve the sieve that was the 05-06 Leafs. But personnel wasn't the main issue last year, but rather the problem was a lack of execution of a sound team game plan in all three zones. Any team that is successful at keeping the puck out of their net does this, and the reason it works is because any schmuck can score a goal against the best defender in the world given the right position on the ice. Be it a two on one, or a takeaway, or gaining a quick positional advantage, if the defending player isn't where they are supposed to be and taking care of the puck with the proper support, they aren't defending anything.

I think we're a team that comes to play every night. We have skilled players for sure, but I think working as a team and giving our all for 60 minutes every night has been the key.

That is a laugh. Yes, the effort has improved, but in no way, shape, or form is it consistent. And as a result team D is still a problem. And even more worrying, Maurice is pinning this shortcoming on personnel as well.
It's a matter of (the) style of players that we have...We have an offensive-minded team...The guys up front, maybe with the exception of Mike Peca, all think they're offensive guys. When they get a good feeling and a positive feeling, they're looking to make plays...Because of that mindset, there are nights that we go out and look really good with the puck and nights that we don't. Our challenge is to introduce a bit more of a grind to our game, a bit more of a defensive mentality to our game without hurting our players' chances of doing what they do best.
While it is fundamental to play the game to a team's strengths, neglecting the important part of winning, i.e. not letting the opposition score, could be considered mental. I see this lack of focus and pride in defense as a coaching issue. Sure some players are "offensively minded", but great players are the ones that learn to take care of their own zone first and foremost.

And they learn that important lesson from who?

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2 Comments:

  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger PPP said…

    I don't think that not having a settled top 6 has helped but they should have done better.

    Of course, after a brutal check the Leafs have now lost their one defensive minded forward.

    The season is getting away from the Leafs.

     
  • At 8:48 AM, Blogger ninja said…

    Things definitely could be better, if even half of those lost leads had held up, but asking Gill to play top-3 minutes isn't a winning proposition. And when the opposition's key goal is to pressure the back-end weak link, it was only a matter of time before the fast start slowed. Teams are even attempting full pressure on McCabe and Kaberle, though the results aren't as dramatic. With Kubina and Carlo logging those minutes now, the breakdowns should be reduced. But of course the hockey gods are repaying the organization with injuries to the forwards just when the defense is getting healthy, so the equation is unbalanced once again.

     

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