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Babcock ‘happy with’ Leafs’ defensive progress this season

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised at the Ford Performance Centre on Friday before travelling to Detroit for Saturday night’s game against the Red Wings.

The Maple Leafs have allowed 15 goals in a three-game home losing streak, but Mike Babcock believes his team is making progress in their own end.

"Our defensive numbers are real good so far this season," the coach said after a brisk 30-minute workout. "We're happy with that. Last night we weren't good enough. We made some mistakes and it ended up in our net, but we gave up chances like we don't normally give up. So that’s the biggest concern."

Babcock insists the meltdown against the Lightning in a 7-3 loss Thursday is not a symptom of larger defensive issues. Instead, it was simply a case of his team getting outworked, something that was addressed Friday morning.

"I thought our meeting was more important than our practice, to be honest with you," Babcock said. "The other team was hungrier and faster and better than us last night. I think that's the No. 1 thing. You know, it's easy for you to string them (losses) together, because that's the way they go. We thought we played great against St. Louis. We didn't win. So, to me, they're night and day different. Maybe we were feeling so good about the way we played against St. Louis we forgot to play last night."

The Leafs fell 3-2 against the defending champions on Monday in a game where they held a significant advantage in possession (62.6% CoriFor) with a 34-18 edge in scoring chances, per NaturalStatTrick. There were a couple breakdowns on the game-winning goal with John Tavares pointing out he needed to do a better job on the draw and Kasperi Kapanen losing his man (Alex Pietrangelo) on the play.

That defeat was preceded by another blown lead as the Leafs went up 4-1 in the third period against Montreal on Saturday before falling 6-5 in a shootout. But that game came on the second half of a back-to-back set at the end of a three-in-four stretch to open the season.

Toronto only lost three straight games twice last season even with some well-documented defensive issues.........