The Maple Leafs are very aware of the situation they find themselves in right now.
They have had a couple of bad games in a row. First was the 6-2 loss in Buffalo, unexpected given the effort level against the Penguins the night before. On Tuesday night, things got worse with a 9-2 loss to the Nashville Predators.
While the pressure is there to perform better, nobody appears to be contemplating a complete rethink.
“We’re right in this still. It’s not like we’re out of the playoff hunt or anything. We’re in it,” sid Phil Kessel. “We have some good games and some bad games. The last two have been bad, real bad. I think if we come out play hard and play the game we can, I think we’ll be fine, we’ll be right back on track."
While the finger has been pointed at coach Randy Carlyle lately, nobody in the room feels their issues come from a systemic level or any particular individual.
“It’s not Randy’s fault, it’s us who are the ones on the ice” Kessel added. “I don’t think people should be blaming him. We’re out there making mistakes and not playing well.”
There was a large emphasis of 2-on-2 battles from the neutral zone to the attacking area on Wednesday. Tensions are high coming off a bad game, and the coaching staff is now armed with the task of trying to keep things loose.
“You can even see in today’s practice that when we go to handle the puck we are sloppy with it. Those are things that you can tell that they are squeezing the stick,” said Carlyle. “So we have to try and remove that. We have to remove that nervousness that comes when you get into situations that we put ourselves into. Nobody’s responsible for this but us. So we’re not hiding from the fact that we are responsible for it.”
Two bad games in a row. But let’s look at where the Maple Leafs are right now.
Through 19 games, they have 20 points. They sit on the bubble of a playoff spot. They were in that playoff spot prior to a pair of losses against Buffalo and Nashville. There are still 63 games to play this season. While the team has had some bad games, there have been good ones as well. There have been performances that followed bad once where the Leafs have looked like world beaters.
“It’s us, it’s here in the locker room,” said Roman Polak. “We proved that we can do it. We beat Boston, we beat Chicago, we had a good streak there, we proved that we can do it so we just have to do it.”
The work ethic has to improve. It’s disappointing when you look at how a team is playing and you hear that they aren’t competing hard enough to the puck.
“The bottom line is we have to play to our system” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “The reality is we’ve done a lot of good things this year. We’ve got to turn it around and I’m very confident that we will.”
Matt Frattin Placed On Waivers
With all three of the Maple Leafs injured players taking part in Wednesday’s practice, a roster squeeze is coming. Matt Frattin was put on waivers with the intention of being sent to the Marlies once he clears.
"He hasn’t played in a long time and if we need Matt back in the lineup it can’t be with just weeks of practice, there has to be some game time in there” said Leafs GM Dave Nonis. “For whatever reason his confidence never reached the level it was when he was here last time. He knows that, he feels it and he just needs to go down and get that back.”
Frattin has played in six games for the Maple Leafs this season, registering four penalty minutes.
Leafs lines at practice
Kozun, Booth, Lupul.