Leafs assistant coach Peter Horachek offered an update from the coaching staff on Monday. Here's what he had to say...
On the team's focus on playing the right way:
That's the process you're moving along with. There are a lot of things we don't do right but we're working towards getting the team playing the right way and in the right direction. Guys are skating, they're working, we're finding ways to continue to get points and we're finding ways to get better. We're trying to continue that process.
On the 9-2 loss as a turning point:
Those are situations that are going to happen throughout a season. We didn't like the 9-2, it would have been better if it was 3-2, but at the end of the day it's still a loss. For us maybe it kind of shakes you a little bit and you say we're better than that. We certainly didn't have a very good effort in that game and we know we have to be better. There's going to be losses again and we're going to find ourselves feeling the same way somewhere throughout the season and it's about how you respond to those situations. Our guys responded well and obviously we've come out of that pretty well.
On helping Gardiner out of tough performances:
We think that not only Jake but all of our guys, we have to try to maximize them to play the team game. When you're on the ice we have to play the team game better. We're trying to make sure everyone is on the same page so that we've got our systems and our game down to a certain point so everybody can rely on each other and use each other. Your system is your backbone and we're trying to do that with Jake and all of our guys. It doesn't just fall on one guy or two guys, everybody has to fall into that and that's what we're trying to push towards.
On wins being a byproduct of team depth and things working the way they should:
As far as back-pressure, that's the way you have to play and as far as depth, good teams have depth. You need secondary scoring, you need secondary play through everybody. That's what pushes you, it's a good, healthy kind of pressure coming from everybody that people are pushing and going in the right direction, they're all providing something to the team and getting scoring from different lines. It's not just relying on one. Teams that rely on scoring from one line don't usually have success at the end of the year. It's good growth, it's healthy for our team, guys are feeling good about certain situations. When you get goals from Richard Panik, it's a big game from him coming off the fourth line, that's a real positive thing. We want to continue that, getting them from all different lines, providing with everyone on the same page. We're growing that way and that's a positive thing. You can teach better when you're winning games than when you're losing games and there's a lot more pressure and guys are feeling it. Right now we're trying to utilize that and utilize the time to improve again in these situations.
On the improvement in special teams:
Last year they did pretty well in one side of it and the growth is there, we want to continue that. We know that it makes a big difference. Penalty kills can save games and power plays usually win games and that's the way that works. We added some good personnel on the penalty kill with Roman (Polak) and (Daniel) Winnik and Leo (Komarov) and they've provided a big boost in those areas. It's consistency too. We've had some good games, there's teams that have scored, we've had guys step up in those situations — Peter Holland has stepped up in those areas from the beginning of the year — and we're going to need that. We're going to need more people. We're going to need people now coming into the lineup, other people coming onto the fourth line, if they're not on the power play are going to have to provide impact in other areas and a lot of the time that's penalty killing. We're trying to get everybody involved, trying to get everybody focusing on the sacrificing and what you have to do for the team to be successful.
On if they expected this much offensive depth:
I'm not surprised by it, I think what happens is if you play a better team game you have better depth in your game overall and you're scoring. It's not an individual thing where you look at somebody who made a great play and say he's got great offensive skill. A lot of times you see games come out and guys get a goal but that comes from a guy having a good forecheck and being in a good position and finishing a check and separating someone forcing a turnover. That comes from the whole team game. That's where a lot of that comes from. With the depth you look at them and hope that's the case and you never know exactly how it's going to work out.
On if the coaches need to temper the enthusiasm in the room during a streak:
I think that as a coaching staff you never want to ride high and never want to ride low. You want to keep things on an even keel and the consistency and the mental toughness is what gets you through 82 games coming into the playoffs if you're healthy and that's where you want to be. The mental toughness part of it keeps you on an even keel. You never want to say, "Oh we're really playing well" because next thing you know, you're not. You start feeling good about yourself and you forget about what got you there and what made you successful. You want to temper it, you want to keep everybody pushing ahead. You can celebrate for an hour and then you move to the next situation. If you lose, you've got to move on as well. You've got to understand what happened, review it, talk about it and move on to the next situation.
I don't (have an update) other than he's ramping up, each day he's doing more and asking a lot of questions on where he is. It's getting better every day.
On the Mumps:
Our staff and doctors do a good job, they're very prepared. I think everyone has been provided boosters — staff and players — they sanitize all the time, they're aware of what's going on. There's a lot of communication between our doctors and training staff and they do a very good job of making sure everybody is prepared. Everybody is aware of what's going on around the League and obviously we're hoping it doesn't get into this... Our guys do a good job of making sure we're prepared.