Trying to find some inspiration during the not-so-great times can be challenging. The reality of the Leafs current situation was felt during Monday’s practice, when familiar teammates were absent for the first time, as a result of a trade with Nashville.
“I felt it too, when (Mike) Santorelli and (Cody) Franson got traded, there was a really soulless, kind of down, energy (that) wasn’t great,” said Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek, following the Leafs 3-2 loss to Florida. “I stopped practice for that reason. I thought the guys just weren’t engaged and still thinking about what was going on. I think we have to snap out of this.”
The times are tough. Finding motivation can be rather difficult but the Leafs just haven’t been able to find anything to rally around. There was no big hit that the team can get behind. No jump from the get go. The outside noise of potentially being moved is starting to buzz louder and louder.
It’s time to find a starting point.
“It’s not easy to go through and it’s not fun to go through,” said Nazem Kadri, who grabbed an assist on both Leafs goals. “You’re trying to keep it light, but it’s always in the back of your mind. Winning makes it more fun, but we’re always in games and we always seem have moments to get back in games but there are lapses here and there.”
Olli Jokinen made his Maple Leafs debut. From the moment he arrived on Monday, he can sense the tense feeling of a team that is struggling to find its edge.
“You can kind of notice that in the two days I’ve been here, it’s a tough situation for the guys who’ve been here all year,” Jokinen said.
The Leafs have reached a point where the onus is completely on themselves to find some motivation to play. Perspective is still in the front of minds of some of the veterans.
“It’s a mental thing,” said Stephane Robidas. “Be willing to do what it takes, sometimes it means taking a chance on a play, sometimes to have to block a shot, or take that shot. Whatever it is, whatever the situation presents itself. For us it’s a chance to prove ourselves. It a chance for me, some of the other guys to show what we can do.”
Morgan Rielly is doing what he can with the opportunity afforded to him. His 25:27 of ice time was a new career high for the sophomore defenceman.
On Tuesday, the Maple Leafs were done in by special teams. Despite scoring a power play goal to open the scoring, the Panthers scored two goals with the man-advantage in response. Turnovers in the second period put the Leafs in a hole. And while Toronto played very well defensively in the third – allowing a season low one shot in third period – the Leafs weren’t able to climb out of it.
There are many days for the Maple Leafs to try and figure out a formula. But the reality is the Leafs are going through change, and players will have to dig deep to find ways to play some inspired hockey. Veterans like Jokinen and Robidas’ words should echo loud and clear. On to the next one.