TORONTO - The boos he hears from home fans sting his pride, but Bryan McCabe will stand up to his critics any day.
"I work hard, I try my best, that's it," says the Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman. "What can you do?" What McCabe did during a recent outing at Air Canada Centre was make Leafs fans laugh at him when he awkwardly stumbled into his own net while circling it with nobody checking him.
What McCabe did Monday night in Buffalo was make Leafs fans cringe by putting a puck in his own net to give the Sabres an overtime victory.
"Somebody makes a mistake every game," he says. "Didn't quite put the puck where I wanted to but that's the way it goes.
"It's not like it was the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. It was the seventh game of the season. We've got a long way to go."
The six-foot-two, blue-liner avoided the media the day after his latest faux pas, but he was front and centre after practice Wednesday in preparation for a home game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. He pulled on a ballcap and, still in his pads, faced the music.
"I don't read the papers," he replied when asked for a comment on printed criticism since the Buffalo game. "What can you do?
"It's one game. As far as I know, there are 75 games left. A lot of stuff during a season happens. I watched the highlights from (Tuesday) night and two guys put it in off skates. What can you do?"
He had a good game going until the overtime miscue.
"It was probably my best effort of the year - until the outcome," he says. "What can you do?"
It will be interesting to see what treatment he gets when he handles the puck against the Panthers. Whatever, he's been able to cope with playing in hockey's biggest fishbowl.
"It's a tough market," he says. "Only certain people can play here, that's for sure, but criticism is expected. What can you do?"
The Leafs are 2-3-2 for six of a possible 14 points, which isn't the start they envisioned.
"I've been fortunate to have seven, hopefully eight, successful years here," says McCabe. "I plan on being productive this year.
"I still love it here. It's great. I love the team, I love the guys. I still love the game and love to play. We've got three-quarters of the season left. We've got a long way to go. There's no need to panic yet. I'm not hanging myself with my tie just yet."
Some fans boo McCabe any chance they get because he's being paid more than US$7 million this season and they don't expect a veteran banking that much to be making fundamental errors.
"Obviously, you'd like to get cheered not booed at home but, like I said, it's nothing I can control," he says. "I play my hardest, try my best.
"You know, no one's perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. That's the game of hockey."
But mention of his salary by his critics bugs him.
"Yeah, that stinks," he says. "I'm one of the higher-paid guys on the team and they expect the world out of you, but I can't turn water into wine every night.
"I'm not that type of player. I'm a hard-nosed player. I've been fortunate enough to be able to be rewarded for some of my points over the years. I'm trying to earn it."
The treatment McCabe has been getting reminds one of what a former Leafs defenceman experienced.
"I've heard some comparisons to Larry Murphy," says McCabe. "I could only be so fortunate.
"He's only got four Cups and is in the Hall of Fame so it's not the worst comparison I've heard in my life."
He admits boos can affect the any player's performance but says he's tries to brush it off.
"I'm not the only one of this team who gets booed," he said. "At least now I've given them an excuse, you know. It was a big glaring (mistake). What can you do?"
A few wins would placate the critics.
"We're one game under .500," he says. "It's not like we're zero-and-seven here.
"We're going to pick it up. We'll have a good week and this will be behind us. I could be getting cheered tomorrow - from zero to hero. We'll see what happens."
McCabe said the Leafs have been trying to repair defensive weaknesses over the last couple days and is hoping it will pay off.
"When you don't communicate out there . . . you've got to be each other's eyes and ears and we haven't been doing that," said McCabe.
What can you do?
"We'll be fine," he said.
Note: Left-winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, having recovered from a strained knee, is back in the lineup. Boyd Devereux, who hurt his back when cross-checked Monday, goes out.