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Quinn wants continued improvement

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Tony Care

The Leafs have won two straight games and their revamped offence has definitely garnered much of the attention in those victories. However, as Toronto prepares for its games against winless St. Louis on Saturday night, coach Pat Quinn wants to see continued improvement from his team.

After a rocky start in which the Leafs lost to Ottawa in their season opener and then tied Montreal, the team has played two solid games against Anaheim and Carolina. The difference has been the team's conscious effort to play better defensively.

"What I like is we continue to keep our shots down in that low 20 area," said Quinn. "We want to really keep focusing on our defensive game but not to the point where you're thinking about it so much that you forget the fact that this is a transition game. We need to be a stronger defensive team before we really should be considering ourselves as serious (contenders). It's early but we've got lots of work to do."

What Quinn has seen is a dedication by the forwards to come back and help the defence - something that was lacking in the first game against Ottawa. As a result, the Leafs only gave up 22 shots against Anaheim on Monday and 23 in their game with Carolina on Thursday. While defensive breakdowns are still evident, Quinn can live with them so long as the mistakes are not duplicated.

"You gong to make errors in this game," he said. "Either the other team is going to force it or you're not going to be as attentive or sharp as you need to be on some occasions. As long as you don't make a lot more mistakes than good plays then you'll always get a chance to rectify it along the way."

The Leafs face a St. Louis team that has struggled early on. The Blues are 0-1-2-0 in their first three games and have allowed 11 goals. While the Blues got even stronger offensively with the acquisition of Doug Weight from Edmonton, the team still has questions in goal.

Last season, the Blues were one of the top teams in the regular season and were considered a favourite to make the Stanley Cup final. But due to the shaky goaltending from Roman Turek, St. Louis lost the eventual champion Colorado in the second round.

In the summer, the Blues traded Turek to Calgary and are pinning their hopes on Brent Johnson. The 24-year-old showed enough last season for the Blues to give him the No. 1 spot this year. While Johnson has allowed nine goals in two games, Quinn thinks the young netminder has a lot of talent.

"They (the Blues) think he's going to be a good player and from what we've seen he is going to be a good player too," said Quinn. "As with youth you see some errors, but that's what teams do. They stick with people while they learn how to play. I think this guy (Johnson) is going to be a good player for them. It's just a part of the development of a team. They still have a lot of good hockey players."
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