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Ferguson: Defensive Improvements Have Been Key

by John Ferguson / Toronto Maple Leafs
I don’t have any illusions about our team.

We are not as good as we can be defensively. We’re better this month than we were last month, but we’ve got to be better defensively in January than we were in December and so on.

That said, there are encouraging signs that we have found a style of play that works for us.

It comes back to defence. In our last six games, we went 5-1. Vesa Toskala gave up 1.67 goals a game in that period. His save percentage was .930.

Vesa has been very sharp but what is critically important is the buy-in from the players who have provided us with the two-way game we need.

We think they have shown they can play solid defensively, that we have a style of game we can play every night and have success with.

But we also think we have some upside. We can score. We are tied for fourth in the league in scoring. Our power play is rated 26th in the league. We know we can do a lot better and when we do, we will see a corresponding jump in offence.

We want to win, but we also want to be an entertaining hockey team to watch. You can play better defensively and still entertain, with effort, hard work and talent. We continue to score goals at an entertaining rate, but when you cut down on neutral zone turnovers and odd-man rushes allowed, you give yourself a better chance to win and that’s entertaining too.
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