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Issues Linger For Leafs

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

On a night where Flyers goaltender Ray Emery surrendered four goals on 25 shots, the Maple Leafs came up with no points.

Puck possession issues continue to haunt Toronto. This time, the goaltending wasn’t there to cover it up.

The Flyers fired 69 shots toward Toronto’s net. 42 of those were on net.

The Leafs countered with 38 shots towards the net.

Simply put, the Leafs aren’t playing in a way that will give them long term success. And they know it.

“Tonight, the bottom line is they played harder for the final 50 minutes,” said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.

The Leafs got off to a great start, scoring the first two goals within the first six minutes of the game. But the Flyers came back and traded goals back and forth in the first period. A total of six goals scored in a span of 6:53 in the opening frame.

But the string of good starts for the Leafs didn’t have a familiar end.

After a perfect 14-0-0 record when scoring the game’s opening goal, the Leafs suffered their first loss.

It was another defeat at the hands of a sub .500 opponent. The Leafs 5-8-1 this season against clubs that have a .500 record or lower.

“Clearly we took our foot off the gas pedal and we were outworked for the rest of the game,” said Peter Holland. “What we need to realize is in that streak where we were winning, we were working for the full 60 minutes. It wasn’t happening by fluke. We just need to get back to winning a full 60 minute game."

In the aforementioned win streak, the Leafs rifled off victories against some top opponents.

But there were some games where the goaltender was the different in their favour (look to James Reimer’s most recent performance against the Red Wings as definitive example).

With the Leafs ready to embark on a swing of road games (16 of their next 21 away from Air Canada Centre), playing the way they would like to, will become increasingly difficult.

“It’s not like we have to change the whole way we play, we know how to play, we know we can play the right way. We’ve done it. It’s just a matter of doing it,” said Stephane Robidas.

“Tomorrow night, we have to learn from our mistake from tonight, we have to manage the puck well, gotta keep it simple, put pucks deep and go retrieve it and spend time in the offensive zone. That’s when we’re most effective.”

With the road swing, comes less room for error. It’ll be harder to line match. But it could also bring the team closer together. For their sake, hope for the latter.

“The overall execution of the simplest things was a challenge for us after the 10 minute mark,” Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle recalled.

There simply won’t be room for those kind of excuses on Sunday.

The Maple Leafs visit Chicago. The Blackhawks are the Central Division leaders at 22-9-2

Toronto does have an impressive 14-3-2 record against above .500 opponents.

The upcoming road trip will be a true test of the Leafs’ mettle.

Only then will we see if the Leafs have truly bought in.

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