The Maple Leafs continue to go through the motions as they play out the string of games.
A rough start didn’t help things as the Sharks drew first blood at 7:02. It was one of 21 shots on goal against the Maple Leafs in the opening frame.
It’s an ongoing problem that caused interim coach Peter Horachek to sound off, sending a message to his team during the first intermission.
“We’re probably a junior team against an NHL team tonight,” said Bernier of Horachek’s message. “I don’t know how many times we’re going to talk about having a good start, we just don’t do it.”
The Sharks busted out of a scoring slump in a major way. Prior to tonight, they scored no more than two goals in any of their last five games. They were key points as they continue to fight for Western Conference wild card spot.
The second period sparked some offence by the Maple Leafs. With San Jose holding a 2-0 lead, Jake Gardiner busted out of a 44-game goal scoring drought, putting Toronto on the board. Just over 90 seconds later, the Sharks restored their two-goal lead.
The Leafs were dead in the water for the remainder of the game.
“I think that every single time we stepped on the ice, we’re showing ourselves,” Horachek added. “You’re showing yourself to the fans, to the management. Character has to be important and we’ve got to rally around it. We understand we’re not in the playoffs but it doesn’t change your work ethic. One thing you have is an attitude all the time. If you can’t bring a good attitude, work ethic and an attitude to drive this team while we’re short and when things are hard, that’s when you should get revved up. That wasn’t good enough for me.”
The Maple Leafs have trailed after the first period in 10 of their last 11 games, resulting in Horachek putting his players on notice. The vibe isn’t very good. Motivation levels are low and nothing the coach seems to put in place is yielding any results.
The effort wasn’t all bad, with Horachek specifically pointing out players like Zach Sill and Sam Carrick.
Special teams continue to bury the Leafs.
Jonathan Bernier did what he could to hold San Jose off, making 20 saves in the first period.
Logan Couture’s second period goal marked the fourth power play goal given up by Toronto in the last four games.
The Maple Leafs were without Nazem Kadri for the first of four games, a result of a suspension handed down by the NHL. Peter Holland is injured and not expected to return until Monday at the earliest. This left Toronto with a lack of depth up the middle.
Still, the effort level has to be there, and the Leafs aren’t exhibiting it.
The comments by Horachek speak to the level of frustration in the locker room. These remaining games could shape the way this team looks next year. Right now, it’s shaping to be very different.