TORONTO – A believer will take comfort in the fact that by the time the playoffs come the referees will usually start to whistle their whistles.
Because at this point, the only thing the Toronto maple leaves can feel good about about their power game is the chance of having a smaller number of them.
On Thursday, Punchless BB was the main culprit for the 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets – which brought a bad itch to the surface. Going from 1 to 42 with the advantage of man since March 9 they were able to combine several victories together because of the excellent results of strength.
But there will be times when you can’t overcome that level of uselessness. In tight games against quality opponents, special teams are often different.
“I think the impact that Power Play has had on the game today is very obvious [we] It failed to do that, ”said Sheldon Keefe, the leaves’ coach.
They tried everything a little when they scored a Power-Play goal in the last 17 games. Different staff, different alignments, two uniform units, a group of all stars. At one point recently, Keefe told reporters that the training staff decided to stop changing anything – only to see injuries and the absence make a big difference.
We have reached the point where everyone can openly agree that the problem has grown so big that it is between the ears of the team’s collective conscience. It has become a matter of trust.
“I’ll tell you about 100 percent,” Keefe said earlier this week.
“It didn’t give us much momentum tonight,” said captain John Tavares, who reduced his team’s Northern Division lead to three points after the loss to Winnipeg.
The Leaves really wanted a start against the Jets. They advanced 1-0 on an early goal by Alex Calsenyuk, pushing against a second straight night-playing opponent, who quickly scored two small penalties in a row.
Assistant coach Manny Malhotra, who is in charge of overseeing the power-play duties, gathered the players on the bench with a white board during a deadline to follow the 5-on-3. Winnie the Pooh then got two quick passes, Calcene scored a shot from the post and the leaves could not combine enough control to create real pressure.
Instead of taking a 2-0 lead, Toronto saw the rope slip quickly – a Nicolaj Ehlers shot that deflected through the defensive zone face loss and Jack Campbell to start the Winnipeg Power Play. Following two more quick strikes from Kyle Connor and Mark Schiffel, the Jets gave a blow to the soul of Toronto.
“5-on-3, usually our power play, and they won a mask in their power play and got an instant score. It was very difficult for us,” Keefe said. “Obviously, we didn’t respond to that correctly. We lost structure to their best players. Mainly two divisions, or 2-in-1 and splitting up for their best individuals. They are freebies, freebies that they do not give us.
“That, in the end, is the difference of the game.”
The Leaves missed two additional power-play opportunities – one to start the third period 3-2 and the other to advance Ehlers 4-2 after some miscommunication between Mitch Morner and David Ritchie.
One goal in a night where Toronto controlled 57 percent of shot attempts and 54 percent of expected targets could result in a different result.
“Even on the bench, I think you can feel the guys not being outside [on the power play], Every shot, every time the guys are looking to fall into the buck web and around, ”Keefe said. “The guys out there are squeezing it out now, they’re reviewing it, but we’ve been where we are, so we’re here to find our way.”
By the time William Nylander finished his final day of covit protocol, the work had been made difficult by the fact that Aston Matthews was sitting with a wrist / wrist problem, but the underlying problems were long before that.
What makes this plugin so frustrating is how dramatically the team’s fortunes have changed. The Leaves were the NHL’s most prolific power-play team to start the season – making the best of 43.3 percent of the chances, while dropping 13 goals with the man’s advantage in 10 games.
They are now 11th overall at 21.8 percent in the league, and they could soon fall down the middle of the pack if they don’t find a way to stop taking water.
“Power play is a big part of winning hockey games,” Marner said. “You know we ‘ve been talking about this for a long time now. We’ ve got it  There are games left until the playoffs, which could win a lot of great games for you, so we need to make sure we get to the music… and make sure we do the right things.
“In the end, we will be rewarded.”
That is the hope, however.