OK, OK, do not push the panic button. Just relax, everyone.
A 1-5-1 record, over the last seven games does not look good on paper. I get that.
But the problem isn’t the record. The problem right now is that the offensive aggressiveness that was there to begin the season is gone. It’s just evaporated. This club is not going to score on a regular basis on sheer offensive talent. We all know that. They must work their butts off in the offensive zone. No surprises there.
For the first two periods against Ottawa on Tuesday night, the Leafs were not offensively aggressive. They will not win close games that way. The margins between good NHL teams and struggling teams are razor-thin. The difference must be the team that wants it more. Last Saturday, the Leafs appeared to want it more against the Rangers. But they couldn’t beat Henrik Lundqvist. Against Ottawa, the offensive desire simply was not there.
Add in a few lazy penalties, and you have the Leafs’ latest recipe for defeat. I understand that some air left the energy balloon when Dion Phaneuf suffered a left leg laceration from Peter Regin’s skate in the corner. Phaneuf has been the key component to the Leafs’ D so far this season. But that’s when the offence has to crank it up a notch. Not just go through the motions. There was a lot of going through the motions in the first 40 v. Ottawa.
The players still don’t seem to understand the value of the “Must get your butt in front of the net” edict. Although Nik Kulemin and Luca Caputi were trying against Ottawa. Caputi is not a first-line player…on any NHL team. Whether he likes it or not, very soon Brian Burke will have to summon Nazem Kadri from the Marlies. Kadri leads the Marlies with 8 points in 8 AHL games and ranks second with 19 shots on goal (Caputi leads with 24 SOG).
Whether they like it or not, the Leafs must add any offensive component to the club they can. Being shut out for 167:39 (just 14 minutes shy of the club’s all-time record, set in 1927) is a massive red flag. The Leafs can play all the solid defence they want but, if they don’t start scoring, they’re going to start sliding into a hole they can’t climb out of. The club still sits with a .500 record, but the time to bring in Kadri is right now. I understand his defensive liabilities, but that’s not important right now. Scoring is.
What’s that? Dion Phaneuf is out four weeks with that Regin cut.
Excuse me while I slip over and push the panic button.