TORONTO – It’s a lesson the Toronto Maple Leafs have been taught several times this season—you can’t win if you don’t score.
After getting blanked 5-0 on Thursday night by the visiting Edmonton Oilers, Toronto has been shut out six times in 24 games this season, including three times in their past six outings.
To make matters worse, Edmonton, last in the Western Conference, was playing its third road game in four nights.
“No excuses, we’ve got to figure out a way to get some goals,” said rookie Nazem Kadri, who’s had several great chances in nine games since being called up, but is still looking for his first career NHL marker.
“I’m happy I’m getting chances, but the bottom line is that I need to put those in the back of the net.”
Kadri isn’t alone on a Leafs team struggling to find its offence. With 51 goals in 24 games, Toronto is 29th in the league in scoring, ahead of only the struggling New Jersey Devils.
Phil Kessel, Toronto’s coveted first-line sniper, leads the Leafs with 10 goals but has scored just once in his past six games and three times in his past 16 games.
Clarke MacArthur, who was challenging Kessel for the team scoring lead early in the season, hasn’t scored in 13 contests. Tyler Bozak has one goal in 12 games.
The list goes on.
“We’ve got three or four guys who should be scoring on some of the chances they’ve had, and they’re not,” said coach Ron Wilson, who was the subject of a “Fire Wilson!” crowd chant late in the game. “And when they don’t score on those chances, it affects the rest of the team.”
Since starting the season 4-0-0, the Leafs have gone 4-12-4 in their past 20 games and lost five of their past six. They’re last in the Northeast Division, 13th in the Eastern Conference and 28th overall in the NHL. Their 2-7-1 road record is the worst in the league. Their penalty killing is 29th, their power play is in the NHL’s bottom one-third.
“It’s frustrating, but I still believe in this group,” said goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who replaced Jonas Gustavsson early in the second period after the starter gave up two goals on six shots. It was Giguere’s first action since Nov. 16.
“We’ve got more to offer,” he said. “I know we can score goals, no doubt about that.”
With their next few games against high-scoring opponents, the Leafs need to find their scoring touch soon. After hosting Boston on Saturday, Toronto has three games in four nights, including Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“The points we got at the beginning of the year were important,” Giguere said, “and the points we’re not getting now are important.
“At the beginning of the year we had so much enthusiasm, and we want to get that feeling back.”