Leafs' D deadly at both ends of rink
The Maple Leafs’ group is not only helping to keep the puck out of the net, to the tune of 27 goals against in 14 games in 2012, but also is adept at contributing at the other end.
Leafs defencemen, led by captain Dion Phaneuf’s 30 points, have accounted for 119 points in 2011-12, third most in the National Hockey League behind the Ottawa Senators (127) and the Vancouver Canucks (123).
There’s a lot more happening with the blue-line group than simply thrusting themselves into the play and hoping something good happens.
“Nowadays, you have to have five guys (on the attack),” coach Ron Wilson said after practice on Sunday afternoon at the MasterCard Centre. “People back-check hard. If you don’t have the defence involved, then it’s three-on-four, three-on-five. We’re fortunate we can have (at least) four guys involved in the play. That really helps a lot.”
It also helps that for the past couple of games, Wilson has had the luxury of seven healthy defencemen. That has meant that Mike Komisarek has been a healthy scratch the past two games (and will be again when the Leafs play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night) but also that Wilson can keep the pairs he wants together. Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson are the shut-down pair, John-Michael Liles is partnered with Cody Franson and the smooth-skating Jake Gardiner is with the defensive-minded Luke Schenn.
The Leafs’ transition game has been more fluid with Liles back after recovering from a concussion. His ability to the move the puck, in Wilson’s mind, has spread confidence to the other defencemen that they can do the same.