Maple Leafs-Senators Preview
Firing a coach and a change in philosophy haven’t helped improve the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fortunes, but a meeting with the Ottawa Senators seemingly provides a good opportunity.
Coach Peter Horachek is looking for a better start Wednesday night as the Maple Leafs try to end their longest slide of the season by continuing their dominance of the Senators before entering the All-Star break.
Toronto (22-22-3) has lost 13 of 16 games, a stretch that cost Randy Carlyle his job earlier this month. So far, Horachek hasn’t done much better with a system emphasizing defense, losing six of seven while being outscored 16-2 during a five-game slide. It’s the first time the Maple Leafs have been held to two goals in five contests since January 1929.
Issues were everywhere Monday, when they fell 4-1 to Carolina after giving up the first three goals – two in the first period – to prompt one fan to throw a jersey on the ice, the third such incident in Toronto this season.
"We know that we gotta pay attention to details, especially early in the first periods," Horachek said of being outscored 7-1 in the opening period over the last five games.
"A lot of times when you give up goals early in the game, we started to press and there’s a lot of talk about goals and you start to cheat. There’s a certain amount of degree of urgency. … We’re not giving up offense, but we’re just paying more attention to the defensive side of the game."
That’s proving to be an issue for Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, who are tied for the team lead with 19 goals but have not managed a point during the current skid.
Kessel – the team’s lone All-Star – has two points in nine games and his minus-10 rating matches van Riemsdyk’s over the past five. They were a combined minus-7 while failing to score on 10 shots Monday.
Perhaps facing Ottawa (18-18-9) could get them going. Kessel has 10 goals and 13 assists in his last 16 meetings, while van Riemsdyk has 11 points in eight after scoring a goal in a 5-3 win at Ottawa on Nov. 9.
James Reimer made 38 saves in that matchup, as the Leafs won for the 10th time in 12 tries against the Senators. Reimer has won eight of nine starts in Ottawa behind a 1.33 goals-against average, and is likely to get the nod Wednesday.
He made all 18 stops Monday after replacing Jonathan Bernier, who gave up three goals on 10 shots. Reimer, though, has a 3.85 GAA in losing his last five starts.
The Senators have dropped nine of 13 games (4-6-3) after losing 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
"We’re close, but I’m pretty tired of having this conversation that we’re close," Craig Anderson told the team’s official website after making 32 saves. "We’re not winning games and that’s frustrating. We’re here to win games. We’re paid to win games. When we don’t win games it’s frustrating and it’s not fun to be around."
Milan Michalek has put together a strong stretch after scoring just two points in 18 games. The left wing scored Tuesday to give him three goals and two assists in five contests.
He doesn’t have a point in the last nine home meetings with Toronto.
Erik Karlsson has 14 points in 10 games after scoring his ninth goal of the season Tuesday.