With every member of the Leafs at attention, coach Ron Wilson delivered a familiar message at the team's practice rink this morning.
"When you stand in front of the net, you're like the goalie," he bellowed. "And unless the puck is aimed at your head, you don't move. He won't see anything."
With only four goals in their last three games (all losses), goal scoring has become a central issue for the Leafs - something that was expected given their lineup is fairly thin on established snipers. Part of the problem of late has been generating enough opportunities, with Toronto putting up only 14 shots on goal in two of their more recent games (one of which was a win over the Penguins).
After Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Flyers, the Leafs have fallen to second last in the league in shots per game (26.1).
"We've done every single drill we did today at some point and in fact a lot," Wilson said. "This is again working on keeping our legs moving and simplifying some of the things. Getting inside the other team by going to the net and going to dirty areas to generate some offence."
Wilson added that Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start for the sixth time in eight games this season against the Panthers on Tuesday, the first of three games Toronto plays this week against Eastern Conference teams. The Leafs face the Bruins in Boston on Thursday and return home for a rematch with the Rangers on Saturday night.
Wilson also juggled his lines a little bit, putting Nikolai Kulemin with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel and dropping Kris Versteeg onto his second line with Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur.
In terms of generating goals, only three Leafs have more than one goal, with 60 per cent of Toronto's scoring having come from Kessel and MacArthur. That has made for quite a few frustrated players, with Bozak admitting at practice he is probably near the top of that list so far.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't [frustrated]" said Bozak, who has no goals and three assists in seven games after a good showing in preseason. "Obviously you want to produce and I haven't been playing my best this year so far. The good thing is it's early and there's a lot of hockey left. Hopefully it turns around right away."
There are some issues with the internet connection here at the practice rink, so no audio today, but here are a few more quotes from Wilson this afternoon on the Panthers and two of his players who haven't produced in the goal department.
- On the Panthers and their coach Peter DeBoer: "We've got to be patient moving the puck. Understand that his team traps. Understand, too, that his team's not going to take very many penalties so we can't wait for a power play. We're going to have to go into dirty areas in order to score. We're going to have to work for every goal when you play a team like that."
- On Kulemin: "I still think things are going well. I guess in this league if you don't score every game, you're a failure. He's got a goal and three assists, I think he's producing offensively. Short term, you can micro-manage everybody; there's a lot of players in our league who haven't put very many points up early in the season. He's getting opportunities. It's only a matter of time."
- On Versteeg: "He has had a number of scoring chances, but again, he's right now guilty a little bit of trying to do too much. A lot of 1-on-1 hockey when he could be using his linemates better, so that's part of shaking the lines up. You think more when you're on with a different group of guys and he's got to use his linemates."