Leafs' power play boom or bust | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaLeafs' power play boom or bust

Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 | 03:14 PM

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Nazem Kadri, centre, thinks Toronto's power play will find its groove again soon. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Nazem Kadri, centre, thinks Toronto's power play will find its groove again soon. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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The Toronto Maple Leafs' power play has been money in the bank for most of the season, but lately the unit's gaffes have led to an alarming number of short-handed goals by opponents.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' power play has been money in the bank for most of the season.

The Leafs rank fourth in the NHL with a 21 per cent success rate with the man advantage, having scored 42 odd-man goals on 200 chances.

Lately, however, it has been a bit of a nightmare.

In the team's first game back from the Olympic break, Toronto surrendered two short-handed goals on the same power-play attempt in a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. Two nights ago in New York City, the Maple Leafs did it again, this time allowing a pair of short-handed goals on the same power play against the Rangers.

Luckily for the Maple Leafs, though, they were able to secure a 3-2 overtime victory.

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said Friday his players must stop making low-percentage passes that get picked off and end up in the back of the Maple Leafs' net.

"We have to make better decisions with the puck, it's as simple as that," Carlyle said. "We're guilty of turning the puck over in a critical area, and that kind of stuff has to stop."

Centre Nazem Kadri isn't about to give up on his team's power play just yet. He thinks the Leafs have the right personnel and it's just a matter of time before it starts clicking again.

"It has been a concern for us the past few games, but I think our power play has been one of our strengths the whole year," Kadri said. "Obviously we have made some mistakes, but maybe that has something to do with being away for a long time and we just have to get into the groove again."

And how does that happen?

"Just simplify our game until we get our feet under us and then we can make skilled plays," Kadri said.

2nd-line blues

The Maple Leafs have one of the best top lines in the NHL with Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. The second line, which features mainstays Kadri and Joffrey Lupul, needs to step it up in terms of secondary scoring, however.

In his last seven games, Lupul has just a goal and three points, while in his past six games Kadri has a goal and an assist.

"You wish you could score every game, but that's not the case," Kadri said. "Sometimes it's just [a matter of] bad breaks, but as long as the chances are there you are doing something right."

Kadri said it's not all about scoring.

"You've got to do two jobs," Kadri said. "We're up against the other team's top two lines, so for everything you do offensively you have to keep them off the scoresheet."

In Bozak's defence

Bozak might not be everyone's definition of a No. 1 centre, but he has a big fan in Maple Leafs rookie defenceman Morgan Rielly.

"He's been hurt, but when he's healthy and he's playing, our team is totally different," Rielly. "I think he's one of the top players in the league and he has really had a chance to prove that this year.

"All the chirps he gets about not being this and not being that are really stupid. I think he's one of the best centres out there."

It has been suggested that anybody could centre a line with Kessel and JVR on the wings, but Rielly said that is a crock.

"He really makes that line go," Rielly said. "He's a two-way guy and he's unbelievable on draws. He plays on the PP and on the PK... I don't know what more he has to do to get praise from other players and the media."

King Kong Kulemin

One of Toronto's best players in the second half is forward Nikolai Kulemin. He normally patrols the wing, but has looked very good when given the chance to play centre.

"He's a big-body guy who can control the puck down low," Carlyle said. "People don't realize he's well over 230 pounds. He doesn't look [that big], but he's a real force when he's in on the forecheck and he gives us a sense of defensive responsibility. He's a reliable player."

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