By Mike Harrington
The HBO cameras are going to start to follow the Toronto Maple Leafs around next week for "24/7," the acclaimed show that chronicles the two teams playing in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. The cameras may get an eyeful if the Leafs continue to be as bad as they've been lately.
After a 10-4 October, the Leafs are just 4-5-2 in November. They've given up 11 goals in the last two games, a 6-0 home disaster against Columbus and Wednesday's 6-5 shootout loss at Pittsburgh. They're 1-2-1 in the last four games, and the lone win was a shootout victory over Washington that saw goaltender James Reimer make 49 saves.
Reimer will be in goal tonight in First Niagara Center and figures to get plenty of work.
The Leafs lead the NHL with 36.1 shots on goal against per game (the Sabres are 29th at 36.0). They've outshot their opponents just four times in 25 games (the Sabres have done it three times in 26). This is a team, remember, that had Boston beaten in Game Seven of the first round of the playoffs last year until blowing a three-goal lead and losing in overtime.
In Wednesday's game, the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead and were outshot 19-0 over the third period and overtime. Yes, 19 to zip.
"I don't think you need rocket science to figure out that if you continue to give up five and six goals, you're not going to get many points," said coach Randy Carlyle. "We have to buckle down definitely in that area and get our defensive game going to a higer level. Part of that is to create a little more in the offensive zone as far as time in there."
While Carlyle was talking to reporters after the Leafs optional skate this morning -- a media session that was cut off by a club PR official -- a parade of big-name Leafs took the exit-stage left from the team's dressing area and out of the FNC.
So there's no real thoughts on tonight's showdown with the Sabres from the likes of Nazem Kadri, David Clarkson, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk or captain Dion Phaneuf, he of John Scott's "Princess" jab from the teams' Nov. 16 meeting at Air Canada Centre.
"I don't pay attention to all the extracurriculars that happen," defenseman Paul Ranger said with a laugh when asked about the comment. "What happens on the ice stays on the ice. The best thing we can do is win the game."
Still, there's no question that the teams' preseason brawl and the Princess comment has upped the ante between the two bitter rivals.
"Full rights to him to have an opinion of anyway as do we," said defenseman Mark Fraser. "I don't think any serious daggers have been thrown.
"So far this year, the history of preseason and what happened so far has made it a good rivalry. "They were obviously energized the last couple of games with their management change as well. There's been a lot of emotion involved in these games and it fuels us even more."
taggedSabres game day | Toronto Maple Leafs