TORONTO - The nine-game preseason schedule has come to a close leaving only 82 games, plus what the team hopes will be a long playoff run, to go in the 2002-03 season. Buckle up, it's going to be long ride.
Toronto finished up training camp with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. The team looked good at times but it's clear nine games in 15 nights were more than it wanted to deal with.
| Mats Sundin looks like he's going to have another big year. |
Graig Abel Photography
"They are bored and ready to go and want to get started yet we still don't look like a team quite yet," GM/coach Pat Quinn said.
The Leafs dressed what will undoubtedly be their opening-day lineup, minus Travis Green who didn't play after taking a big hit in Montreal on Thursday. Green would have dressed had this been a regular season contest but was told to sit as a precautionary measure.
Goaltender Ed Belfour played his best game of the preseason and didn't let the first shot go in, a trend that was starting to take on a life of its own. The veteran made a number of nice saves and was handling the puck well for his defencemen.
"I've been feeling better every day in practice, tonight I felt strong in the game so its definitely a good sign," Belfour said.
Alex Mogilny and Mats Sundin are still trying to click as a unit with Darcy Tucker on the left side. Mogilny was pulling plenty of moves out of his bag of tricks and Sundin had plenty of chances but just wasn't able to bury them. Are they ready to take on the NHL as a line?
"Lets say this it's one of those things you conjure up and say 'boy they'd work good together'," Quinn said. "They have lots to do about taking advantage of each others skill. When they had the puck they did some good things individually. Together it's still not there.
"I think with some time they'll do fine."
Sundin also believes the pairing has potential and agrees with his coach about it not being a great fit so far. Though it appears they're close to becoming a dangerous tandem, Sundin is not going to have any in-depth discussions with Mogilny about it.
"You don't really talk, I think hockey is an international language in itself. It's more getting to know each other on the ice, understanding the patterns each other is going to take," Sundin said.
"Both of us have to shoot more. You look at tonight's game we had a lot of chances, we looked for that last pass instead of getting the puck to the net."
With a full day off before leaving for Wheeling, West Virginia after Monday's practice, the Leafs do have a lot of work to do but maybe a little quiet time will get them where they want to be. NOTES:
Defencemen Ric Jackman and Carlo Colaiacovo, one of which won't be with the team when the season starts Thursday in Pittsburgh, both watched from the press box. Colaiacovo isn't yet under contract by the Leafs and unless that happens by Monday afternoon he will be sent back to junior.