Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Maple Leafs Seek Puck-Possession Blueprint from Blowout of Sabres

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Maple Leafs Seek Puck-Possession Blueprint from Blowout of Sabres

Article excerpt

Leafs seek blueprint from blowout of Sabres

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TORONTO - In pummelling the Sabres on Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs put up 37 shots to Buffalo's 10. It was the kind of dominating performance that's usually reserved for lower levels of hockey.

And while the Leafs know they won't be able to do that often, they see a blueprint for success. And it starts with puck management.

"When you turn pucks over at your blue-line, their blue-line and make bad decisions with the puck, you're usually going to be chasing the game and you're going to be getting outshot by a ton," said Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk. "When you're smarter with the puck it definitely creates more time in their end."

In the first eight games of the season, the Leafs were outshot six times. Getting outshot and winning was part of their recipe last season when Jonathan Bernier shined in goal, but it's not a sustainable road to the playoffs.

The Leafs found that out last spring. While new assistant coach Peter Horachek wasn't around for that, he knows that the best teams manage the puck well and don't get outshot regularly.

"Any time you're giving up 30-plus shots that's not good," Horachek said after Wednesday's intrasquad scrimmage. "A lot of teams get that number of shots when you get into the high 30s because you're turning pucks over, because you're not exiting your zone in a clean manner.

"You're not making the first pass, the second pass and coming out, you're not managing the puck in the neutral zone where you're making clean passes or laying it in behind when it's necessary."

That's what the Leafs were doing well Tuesday night in a 4-0 waxing of the 2-8-0 Sabres, who have scored just 11 goals over their first 10 games.

"We weren't turning the puck over as much as we had in other games," Horachek said. "Understanding where you are on the ice and the support and putting pucks in to where you need to go and continue to have offensive possession. We were cycling the puck fairly well, we were skating with that. …

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