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Bruce Arthur, National Post
Published: Thursday, October 19, 2006

TORONTO - Paul Maurice's first six games as coach of the Maple Leafs produced the kind of start that gets Toronto fans painting their cars blue and white, and planning the parade. To be fair, oxygen also occasionally has this effect on certain Leafs enthusiasts.

But in his first six games -- a smart-looking 3-0-2 stretch after a season-opening loss -- Maurice seemed to have radically transformed a Toronto team that had excited precisely nobody before the season began. If you were so inclined, you could call it the Paul Maurice miracle.

We are not yet so inclined. And Maurice, sensibly, remains skeptical.

"We've given up 10 goals in our past two games," said Maurice, dry as always, before last night's home 4-1 loss to the struggling Colorado Avalanche, "so we're not planning any [parade] routes yet."

Smart man.

Last night, the team's newfound aggression was turned to confusion. The Leafs, with their forward-skating style, came in leading the league in shots, at 38.5 per outing, but turned into teenagers driving the car too fast -- handling the puck like it was greased up and squeezing off a mere 28 shots at the opposing goalie.

Still, this remains a very different team than anything seen during the Pat Quinn era. And of the summer acquisitions, it's not Andrew Raycroft, Pavel Kubina or Mike Peca who have had the greatest impact.

"I think a lot of teams [reflect] the character and personality of their coach, and Paul has instilled a strong work ethic in us from day one, and everyone has bought into that," says Peca, who knows a good program when he sees is. "So you see a lot of second effort on this team, and you know, talking to guys that have been here over the years, that wasn't something that was always a necessity or a focal point of this team. And it is now."

The old Leafs -- and they really were old Leafs, at times -- employed their relentlessness in bursts, conserved their chances, and relied on having one hell of a goalie behind them. The new Leafs have not created chances with ice-melting speed -- instead, they are simply skating ahead, hard. In so doing, they are attempting to keep opponents skating backwards through the surprisingly effective tactic of sheer hard work.

Of course, last night, with the defence leaking and the cohesion intermittent, they also had to rely, at times, on Raycroft being one hell of a goalie. It did not always work.

For his part, Maurice said yesterday that this team is at 80% of what he wants it to be, and that there are two areas left where the other 20% will come from.

"One is a capacity to work harder," Maurice said. "I guess the analogy I could use is if myself and Lance Armstrong got on a bike, we could work just as hard, except that he'd be 10 miles down the road 30 seconds in, and I'd be keeling over. We'd both be working hard, though. So as we get more used to what we're trying to do, we'll be able to do it, that capacity will grow."

The other part, he said, is learning how to score at speed. They rarely had to before. And last night, Toronto's decision-making was, shall we say, somewhere south of stellar. For instance, Brian McCabe's dreadful drop pass at centre ice in the third, which led to Colorado's third goal.

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Wow, that was a nice read.

I was against firing Quinn but the way Maurice has the Leafs playing so far has been impressive. Like the article said it's about hard work this year and if a team is working hard and losses I can live with that.
 

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But in his first six games -- a smart-looking 3-0-2 stretch after a season-opening loss -- Maurice seemed to have radically transformed a Toronto team that had excited precisely nobody before the season began. If you were so inclined, you could call it the Paul Maurice miracle.

We are not yet so inclined. And Maurice, sensibly, remains skeptical.

"We've given up 10 goals in our past two games," said Maurice, dry as always, before last night's home 4-1 loss to the struggling Colorado Avalanche, "so we're not planning any [parade] routes yet."

Smart man.
Agreed. Yeah, he can pat the guys on the back, no problem. But the team needs to continue to improve and find some consistency in their game.

Last night, the team's newfound aggression was turned to confusion. The Leafs, with their forward-skating style, came in leading the league in shots, at 38.5 per outing, but turned into teenagers driving the car too fast -- handling the puck like it was greased up and squeezing off a mere 28 shots at the opposing goalie.

Still, this remains a very different team than anything seen during the Pat Quinn era.
So true. They hustle and hustle hard, and they try to make the most out of anything they can get. They also realize that there's a goaltender behind the d-men.

"I think a lot of teams [reflect] the character and personality of their coach, and Paul has instilled a strong work ethic in us from day one, and everyone has bought into that," says Peca, who knows a good program when he sees is. "So you see a lot of second effort on this team, and you know, talking to guys that have been here over the years, that wasn't something that was always a necessity or a focal point of this team. And it is now."
Exactly what I said above.

The old Leafs -- and they really were old Leafs, at times -- employed their relentlessness in bursts, conserved their chances, and relied on having one hell of a goalie behind them. The new Leafs have not created chances with ice-melting speed -- instead, they are simply skating ahead, hard. In so doing, they are attempting to keep opponents skating backwards through the surprisingly effective tactic of sheer hard work.
Work, work, work. And yes, Rayroft being in the net doesn't mean that they should open him up to a billion point blank shots a game, or let him get run over in th crease on a nightly basis.

He needs help, and h's been getting it. A shame CuJo and Belfour didn't. Who knows what could have happened if the team gave it some thought.

The other part, he said, is learning how to score at speed. They rarely had to before. And last night, Toronto's decision-making was, shall we say, somewhere south of stellar. For instance, Brian McCabe's dreadful drop pass at centre ice in the third, which led to Colorado's third goal.
Man. McCabe. Can he really change his game? I mean, he is like 32... right?:(

Shookem said:
Like the article said it's about hard work this year and if a team is working hard and losses I can live with that.
Me too.
 
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