stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
Like attending games, Leafs fight the traffic
space
space
By DAVID SHOALTS
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 – Page S1

TORONTO -- When it comes to beating the neutral-zone trap, the nemesis of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mike Babcock likens it to the traffic around the team's arena.

"It's like going to the ACC at 5 o'clock," the Leafs head coach said after Tuesday's practice. "There's traffic. But the more you go there at 5 o'clock, the more you know which lane is open and which street to go on and you get to figure it out."

Using the perpetual nightmare that is Toronto's congestion as a metaphor for the NHL's version of dystopia, the neutral-zone trap, was rather clever of Babcock. However, in the downtown area that includes the Air Canada Centre at Bay Street and Lake Shore Boulevard, there are no lanes or streets that offer any kind of escape at 5 o'clock on any weekday afternoon. Hence Babcock's interrogator wondered if the coach walks to the rink from his downtown condo rather than going by car and taking the chance he will miss the opening faceoff.

"No, I drive. And the last block takes me a half hour," Babcock insisted. "The reality of the situation is it's the same principle. You've got to find your way through it.

"If you're stubborn and you turn pucks over it hurts you. If you stay patient and you do things right you end up spending a lot of time in the o-zone and you have a lot of fun."

The trouble is, despite the Leafs' gaudy 14-8 record at the regular-season's quarter-pole, plus-13 goal-differential and second-place standing in the Eastern Conference, there are teams that give them fits. All of those teams have one thing in common - they get lots of bodies into the neutral zone to choke off the Leafs' attack before it can get rolling into the offensive zone.

Some of those teams are not as good as the Leafs. Such as the Arizona Coyotes, who beat them with that tactic and outplayed them on special teams on Monday night, or the Carolina Hurricanes, who throttled the Leafs in late October. The Leafs will meet the Canes again Friday night on a two-game southern trip that starts with the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. The Panthers also play a similar style.

The best way to beat the trap, to find your way among all those bodies between the bluelines, is with speed and puck movement.

The Leafs have both in abundance, but it often does not translate to an easy path to the promised land where all that fun can be found.

A lot of the Leafs' trouble in that regard was masked during their recent six-game winning streak by goaltender Frederik Andersen. His play was so sublime a lot of mistakes were covered up.

The words Babcock used, stubborn and patient, are key to the Leafs' woes in the neutral zone. Too often, those quick, talented youngsters insist on using their speed and stickhandling skills to try to get through a crowd by themselves. But trying to carry the puck past two NHL opponents rarely pays off and they usually end up with it.

It takes young players an indefinite period of time to learn the patience to help each other through traffic. Some nights they have it and other nights they don't, which led to some pointed criticism for the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander after the loss to the Coyotes.

"A lot of the guys that have been driving us, the young skill guys, not today," Babcock said after the 4-1 loss on Monday night. "They weren't here today."

Babcock is not one to issue outbursts in the wake of a loss. A message was delivered to the guilty parties, although Matthews, who was playing in his second game back from an injury, admitted his play was decidedly lacking.

Leafs centre Nazem Kadri, a grizzled veteran by Leaf standards at 27, says the Leafs are getting a handle on playing against such defensive systems as well as improving their own defensive play.

"That happens every year throughout the first 10, 20 games, [play] is a little more open," he said.

"Now it's becoming second-nature, guys are able to adapt to systems a little bit quicker. So that's nothing out of the ordinary.

"That's how you're going to win now, especially if you're having trouble scoring. You've got to play good defensively and that translates into good offensive opportunities as well."

Babcock agrees. He just thinks it should happen more consistently.

"I think we've got a pretty good team that plays pretty well," he said.

"But the other team, when they get an opportunity, clogs up the neutral zone. What do you think they're saying about us? The same thing.

"So who does it best and who stays patient and who gets through it?"

Associated Graphic

Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews skates the puck up the ice during Monday's 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main William_Thorsell Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page