TORONTO – In the wake of another disappointing home loss – the team’s fourth in five games – Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson says his team has been guilty of trying to stick handle out of a phone booth rather than making the simple play.
“It’s partly it, for sure,” said Wilson following the Leafs 2-0 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. “Rather than shoot, try to pass it through sticks; trying to be too fine with your shot; trying to hit just inside the post instead of getting it on the net; having a few more guys drive the net looking for rebounds.”
Even as the losses mount, perhaps more troubling for Leaf fans is that the team has been shut out in back-to-back home games after scoring a combined nine goals in two road games last week.
Teams struggling to score at home are often guilty of being too cute in pursuit of offence. Wilson said that represents some of his current team’s shortcomings.
“We’re trying to make the equivalent of 60-foot putts, which Tiger Woods can’t make, instead of simplifying our game, which would be, in golf, a three-or four-or five-foot putt,-in hockey, a 10-foot pass,” said Wilson.
Wilson said instead of making one or two big stretch passes, the Leafs need to focus on making five or six quick plays so they attack the offensive zone as a unit.
“If you come up the ice together, if something doesn’t develop, you can get it in and get a forecheck going,” said the coach, noting even when long passes work, they often just isolate a player who has to wait for his teammates to catch up.
“But when you continually try to look long, you end up playing one-on-one hockey. It looks pretty, but it’s totally ineffective.”
Defenceman Ian White agreed after Monday’s loss that Toronto has to get back to basics when trying to create chances.
“I don’t know if it’s because we’re at home, but we’re definitely trying to do too much with the puck,” he said. “We’re the most successful when we keep it simple, chip it when you don’t have a play instead of trying to dangle through a guy.
“Simple hockey seems to work in this league, nowadays especially.”
While the home difficulties have been more pronounced of late, it is by no means a new trend for Toronto. In 22 games this season, the Leafs have grabbed just 20 of a possible 44 points at home.
Only three teams have accumulated fewer home-ice points than Toronto, which is now 8-10-4 at home and 9-12-3 on the road.
“It’s been frustrating at home here, the way we’re playing, the offensive output, definitely,” White said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding away. The positive side is the last 20 minutes (on Monday), we played desperate and that’s the way we need to play for a full 60 minutes”.