January 15 2011 06:13PM
So the Leafs return from their successful (for them) four-game road trip to face Calgary. They’re going to come out with a ton of energy, right? Wrong. Same old Leafs off the top against the Flames. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why Toronto’s early-game trademark has become lethargy. Slow starts have become the norm.
The Leafs are one of, if not the, youngest teams in the NHL. They should be oozing energy. Sweating zest from every pore. It makes no sense, especially when you consider the first four games of this season. You remember those four. Wins over Montreal and Ottawa, then on the road in Pittsburgh and Manhattan. The team’s energy as each of those four games began was head-and-shoulders above the opposition’s. Why wouldn’t that continue?
It hasn’t. Not even close. Saturday night, against Calgary, Toronto started Darryl Boyce, who still hasn’t played a dozen games in the NHL, and Marcel Mueller – playing his first NHL game. Shouldn’t those two guys set the tone for how the game should start? No such luck.
The Calgary Flames suck. The world knows this. If you are going toe-to-toe with someone who doesn’t fight very well, do you not try and pound on them early? Of course you do. But not if you are the Leafs.
Coming out flat is an ongoing recipe for disaster. Falls into the same category as allowing 45 shots per game, or continually trailing 4-1. You might come back and win a few of those, but it’s not a good strategy for long-term success.
There are a lot of things about this Leafs hockey club that I don’t get. Why did Reimer go back so soon? Why is Phil Kessel still revered as a star? But this slow-startitis I really don’t understand. By the time you read this, the Leafs may have defeated the Flames. Or not. Either way, the slow starts have become a habit.
They trailed 1-0 in each of the four games in their just-ended road trip. They won three of the games. But it’s like holding your car’s muffler on with duct tape. It might work for now but, over time, it’s a poor strategy.
After Saturday, the Leafs have three days off until a tilt in Madison Square Garden. They always seem to come out hard there. The only thing that’s saving them right now is that the Leafs don’t tend to give up a lot of goals early either.
If I was in Ron Wilson’s shoes, I may want to figure out how to get a lead or two early in a few games. It’s amazing how much easier games get after that.