Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek met with the media on Sunday afternoon to talk about the team's return from their four-game road trip through California and St. Louis. Here's what he had to say...
On the road trip:
We just played four of the best teams in the west and they're all big, built for the playoffs, top of the League, top of their game. I think our guys competed in all of those games. We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them and we didn't capitalize in other areas. We had chances to score in some of those games and if you get one of those it changes the course. We have to maintain our process of where we're going and how we want to play and dig a little deeper and a little harder on chances around the net. We've got to spend more time around there and start capitalizing on our chances.
On maintaining confidence after the trip:
That's always a concern. Guys kind of start feeling let down or feeling a bit of frustration and you can't let that seep in. You have to keep them propped up and keep the attitude at a good place. You just have to approach it like it's game six of the playoffs — we have to have more of a sense of urgency when you've gone through some losses. We've had some injuries and you've got to buckle down. Don't give them any excuses, don't give them anything, just keep moving and keep with the process.
On the balance between scoring and defence:
I'm definitely seeing an improvement on the defensive side — the things we want them to do — without question. The teams we just played play good defence. It's not that they're offensive teams that we didn't score on, they're all defensive teams first. LA, Anaheim — they have great forwards and they're big — San Jose, they all play defence. St. Louis plays great defence. That's where it starts. You get some of your chances going in and you start finding ways to spend more time around the net, more traffic. You've got to start capitalizing on your power plays and start scoring some goals, but it's close. It's going to start happening again but that's where you have to be. You have to believe in the process, what you're doing and how you're playing, believe we're going in the right direction and get back on a roll. You start winning some games and that's where we have to be.
On Phaneuf's apparent "frustration" after last night's game:
I wouldn't call it frustration. I think he's angry with the position we're in, losing those games on the road and I think he's gained a burr in his backside and he has some resolve. We're all a little bit not in the right place as far as understanding the results of these games. We've still got to understand where we're going. There's lots of games to be played. We're right where we want to be if we start today and we have to take that approach. There's no other way. The only thing we can control now is what we do today and what we do tomorrow and how we approach tomorrow. I think he takes some responsibility as a leader of the team. The leadership in these tough situations stand up and have to be called on. He's trying to be the leader.
On if the room is uneasy with potential trade rumours:
I think everybody naturally thinks about different things when things don't go right and it's a natural thought process, but we leave that to everybody else. I try to keep them in the moment and you worry about what you can control. You can't control anything that goes on. You can't control what you guys say, you can't control what's in the media, you can't control what everybody is going to do outside and say. What you can control is what you bring in every day to that locker room. Bring a little bit more onto the ice, bring more sense of urgency onto the ice and control winning. If things are going to happen, they're going to happen. You can't control it but you can put yourself into a better position as a team and move forward.
On increasing the shots-for while keeping the shots-against down:
I don't think they've been that bad, I think they're around close to the other team with where they've been. The one game against San Jose they had 40 shots and that was down but that's also a product of how they play. They funnel pucks from everywhere, outside the blueline, every chance they get. They start with a shot at the net and they want to play their forecheck off the shot on net because it's a little harder to control where the puck is going to go. I think it's getting better, I think we can do more of that and have a bit more of a mindset and say listen, instead of looking for a play teams in these defensive structures are tight around the net, around the house and we need to start getting on the inside and sending more pucks there, starting there as well. We can do more of that.
On injury updates:
I don't really have anything right now. I know everyone is getting treatment right now — Leo (Komarov) is in there, Peter (Holland) is in there. I don't expect to have Peter before the break so I'm not really paying attention to that until the break. I didn't know what Leo's status would be. I was hoping when we get back once we get through today he can give me something on whether or not he'll be available for these two games.