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Confidence and trust still in building stage for Leafs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO -- During slumps everything seems to go against you, that's why they call them slumps, but when its lifted off your shoulders confidence builds faster that it vanished in the first place.

The Leafs' dressing room turned from mostly doom and gloom to pure relief and joy after their 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.

Alex Mogilny's three-goal outburst solidified the win and highlighted Toronto's most consistent effort since the season-opening win over Pittsburgh. That's not to say there still isn't work to do on this team's psyche, but its ability to make up for miscues in the game, boosted its confidence for sure.

Aki Berg and Tom Fitzgerald give this Lightning player a rough ride.
Graig Abel Photography
"It's weird what confidence can do for a hockey team," said Darcy Tucker, who scored the tying goal with just more than five minutes remaining. "It's like something just jumped off us. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."

When things aren't going your way, you hold the stick a little tighter, it's that much harder to pick up a pass, the bounces never, ever go your way and you wouldn't believe it, but even the food isn't as good. That's been the emotional state of the Leafs during their previous six games of seven-game ride at home.

"You don't know why it's happening," GM/coach Pat Quinn said. "Right now we just wanted a win. It was nice for us to bounce back, now we have to build off that."

Brains cramps, silly mistakes, miscues, call it whatever you want, the Leafs have been making them. The difference against the Lightning is they were able to pull up their hockey socks and get over it. Squabbling on the bench in recent losses turned to encouragement after the Lightning took a 3-2 lead near the halfway mark of the third.

"Whatever goes on mentally with all of us, we're trying to build some trust," Quinn said. "We're trying to get that behind us. That's the only way we can be good.

Trust has been a word mentioned a lot when talking about Ed Belfour. Do the player's believe in him? Does he believe in the players? Both questions looked as though they were getting closer to being answered as Belfour stopped 34 shots in his best game to date.

He played the puck well controlled his rebounds and made big saves to preserve the win. Has his arrival more than anything else been a factor in the Leafs slow start?

"We had a couple changes," Quinn said trying to explain the transition from Curtis Joseph to Belfour. "A guy that we all liked took off someplace and so we had too make some adjustments."

"The new guy coming in, we know he can play but he doesn't play like the old guy. We have to get by that. We're too good individually to not be good collectively."

It looks as though the healing process has begun for the Leafs.

  • Nik Antropov will have his knee examined on Wednesday. He was forced to leave the game in the third period.
  • Jyrki Lumme was given the old Bronx cheer by the fans as he was announced as a healthy scratch.
  • The game started with 4:57 of whistle-free play
  • Ric Jackman made him Leafs' debut
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