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Leafs Struggling To Find Consistency

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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The early going of Tuesday night’s Leafs’ game had you reaching for your pencil; not to write anything down but rather to contemplate the mechanics of poking out your own eyeballs

Too harsh? Well, in falling 4-2 to the Florida Panthers, the Leafs failed to muster so much as one of the game’s first 11 shots. By then, the Panthers had one goal disallowed because the net went off a second before the puck crossed the goal line and another that counted by Stephen Weiss.

Tomas Kaberle put it best.

“At the twelve-minute mark we had no shots,” he said. “That’s bad.”

Yes, yes it is.

Ville Peltonen scored his sixth of the year when he snapped a shot past Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala to send the visitors to the first intermission up 2-0.

The Panthers' Michael Frolik upped the margin to 3-0 with five minutes left in the second. The Leafs looked like they were skating on stone.

“It was one of the things I talked to the team about,” said Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson. “We’re so passive in the first period, but again we don’t have a take charge type of player and that will show in the first period.”

This season, the Maple Leafs have been outscored by 24 in the first period and by six in the second. In the third, they have outscored opponents by 13.

Don’t try telling Wilson the improved third period meant much.

“The easiest time to play is, in basketball when you trail by 30 points or, hockey when you’re trailing by three or four goals,” he said. “The other team takes their foot off the gas and you can start playing.”

Alexei Ponikarovsky added a power play goal early in the third. It was Ponikarovsky’s 13th goal of the season and good enough for a tie with Nik Antropov for the team’s goalscoring lead.

A great power-play tip in Gregory Campbell put the Panthers up 4-1 midway through the third but Jason Blake restored the two-goal margin with the highlight goal of the night, a shorthanded dash through the offensive zone that saw him tuck the puck past Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun at about the same time Blake catapulted himself into the net.

The Leafs were finishing a four-game homestand while the Panthers were making the last stop on a four-game road swing. Toronto was also coming off a solid 3-1 win over Ottawa on Saturday night and were well-rested. Go figure.

“I feel like we were ready to play but for some reason we were watching,” said Blake. “At home, especially at home, you’ve got to make sure you are ready to play. Our fans believe in us, they support us. For some reason we weren’t there tonight.”

If you want to step back, the result isn’t a shock. Wilson has pointed out inconsistency is the hallmark of a mediocre team. The Leafs won more than they lost in October, lost two more than they won in November, won seven and lost seven in December and now sit 1-2 for the New Year.

Inconsistency was never so consistent.

The game marked the return to the lineup of Luke Schenn who missed a dozen games. Schenn finished minus-1 but logged 21:25 of ice time, most of it with Ian White as his partner. Jonas Frogren saw his ice time halved to 10:33 after playing more than 20 minutes in Saturday’s win over Ottawa but turned in a plus-1 night.

The Leafs now head out for a road trip of their own with tough games in Montreal Thursday and Saturday in Philadelphia and for all the misery attached to the team’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo on New Year’s Day and Tuesday night’s stinker, the club could turn things around in a heartbeat. It seems to be what they do.

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