TORONTO - Two games into the NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs awoke to an ominous headline.
"Leafs: Wait 'Til Next Year" the Toronto Sun shouted on its front page. Newcomer Jason Blake was surrounded at his cubicle after practice Friday by a media horde looking for answers. "I guess I'm just getting used to this," said a bemused Blake.
Welcome to the hockey fishbowl, Jason.
Blake has played well, although the power-play unit he's on is 0-for-14 and lack of production with the extra skater was a critical factor in losing 4-3 in overtime and 3-2 to Ottawa.
"We played great both nights," said Blake. "Obviously, you don't come to the rink to play good, you come to the rink to win but, I mean, there's some positive signs there.
"If we could just capitalize on one of those power plays both nights it's a whole different ballgame, but would've, could've should've. Let's just move on."
The Leafs, rather than waiting 'til next year, are moving on to a home game against Montreal on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET).
"We're not panicking at all," said Blake. "We're fine.
"We didn't score on the power play in two games. I mean, you know, that happens with every team."
Andrew Raycroft was in the nets for the opener, with so-so reviews, and Vesa Toskala made his debut in Ottawa, and played well.
"I felt pretty good," he said. "I'm disappointed we didn't get any points out of that game. We deserved at least one point."
Coach Paul Maurice hasn't been announcing his starter so it remained to be seen who'd be in the crease against the Habs.
"It doesn't change anything I'm doing," Toskala said of the debate swirling around the two-goalie system. "I'm used to this.
"It was the same way last couple of years (in San Jose) so it's nothing new for me."
He was asked if he felt he earned his first home start with his performance Thursday.
"I hope so," he replied.
Raycroft says he's dealt with situation since he was playing atom hockey.
"Since the day of the trade (for Toskala), I knew I was going to have to answer these questions all year long," said Raycroft. "Ves knows the same: take your gear off, answer a few questions and go and stretch.
"It's not a distraction for us, that's for sure."
Maurice said he's merely trying to do what is best for his goaltenders.
"I've had a situation, and I've had it more than once, where your positive comments . . . are seen as completely negative by the other goaltender," he explained. "I'm going to protect them a little bit more than I would have in the past because their confidence is critical."
A win over the Habs is critical, too, says Matt Stajan.
"We just have to get a bounce here and there and hopefully our power play can get rolling," said Stajan, who scored a goal in each loss. "I think our penalty killing has been doing a good job.
"A lot of these games are going to come down to special teams. We're happy with the work ethic and how our team played for the most part, but we can't be satisfied. We're a zero-for-two hockey team. That's not good enough. We know that. We're going to go to the rink (Saturday) with everything we have and make sure we get a win."
Mats Sundin will be looking for his 390th goal in the blue and white after pulling even with Darryl Sittler for the club record in Ottawa. The Habs will be eager to keep him from getting it.
"There's always a lot of emotion in these games against the Leafs, and they'll be at home," said Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet. "We need a solid effort."
Montreal scored three power-play goals in winning its opener 3-2 in overtime at Carolina. Now they play the first of their eight games against Toronto.
"Every game against Toronto has a certain flavour to it," said Habs forward Chris Higgins. "It's usually more physical than most of the games we plan in.
"Guys are usually more jacked up to play in those games. We know exactly the style they play and they know us."
The Leafs are staging a streetfest adjacent to Air Canada Centre with a rock band beginning three hours before the game. Streets around the arena will be closed and large screens will show the game so those without tickets for arena seats can stick around to take in all the action.
"Budding actors take note," says a team news release. "The production crew for "The Love Guru" starring Scarborough's own Mike Myers will be filming at the Leafs' tailgate party."