by John McCauley
December 6, 2005
TORONTO -- The Leafs will be talking about this one like those old fishin' stories your Grandfather used to tell you about the one that got away.
Toronto had nine powerplay opportunities and fired 37 shots at the Los Angeles Kings, but were ultimately on the hook for a 2-1 loss, Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.
Mathieu Garon was responsible for making the 36 saves that helped end their Kings four-game losing streak and stretched the Leafs streak to two straight defeats.
"We couldn't find the mustard to finish the job off properly," said Pat Quinn. "We created lots of chances but we didn't have any finish."
The Kings were able to successfully take away the big point shot from Bryan McCabe and that is what Quinn pointed to as the reason the Leafs weren't able to get more than one goal on the man advantage.
"We haven't adjusted to the changes that penalty killing has made against us," said Quinn. "Our guys that provide options on the down-low plays weren't in the right spots to get it done. That's what were't going to have to deal with."
It wasn't just the futility on the powerplay that contributed to this defeat though.
As has been the case at times this season Ed Belfour's play has been a tale of two netminders.
One incarnation has the perennial all-star, who has been stopping pucks in this league for the past 16 seasons, frustrating the opposition with his superb positional play and rebound control. The other is someone who has let in what ordinarily would have been routine saves for the 40 year old.
Case in point was the first half of the game when Belfour appeared to be fighting the puck, whether it be in close or from a far.
The first marker came as Dustin Brown chipped home the puck durng a scramble in front of Belfour. Not entirely his fault since both Leafs forwards Tie Domi and Chad Kilger left Brown unchecked down low, but controlling the puck in those situations has been something you could count on with Belfour.
The Kings second goal came on the powerplay and was the one that most illustrates how Belfour seems to be having trouble with the puck. Mattias Norstrom fired a point shot that Belfour appeared to be able to get his glove on but he couldn't squeeze it. Brown pounced on the rebound for his second of the night.
From that point on the Leafs netminder was in complete control. He made good decisions handling the puck and gave his mates every opportunity needed to tie things up or win it in regulation, including numerous spectacular saves in the third period.
So really can you lay the blame for this loss on Belfour? No, but had he been able to play like he did in the second half of the game for the entire 60 minutes it likely would have been a different result.
One thing is clear though both issues need to be corrected if the Leafs want to catch the big one ... a playoff spot.