Randy Carlyle's message getting through to Leafs | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaRandy Carlyle's message getting through to Leafs

Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 | 11:26 PM

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Despite losing to Buffalo, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle’s message seems to be getting through to his players. (Abel/Getty Images) Despite losing to Buffalo, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle’s message seems to be getting through to his players. (Abel/Getty Images)

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The Maple Leafs' incompetence during a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period cost them big time in a 2-1 loss to goalie Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres during the home opener at the Air Canada Centre on Monday evening.
You don't have to be Randy Carlyle to know what the Toronto Maple Leafs will be working on in practice on Tuesday.

The Maple Leafs' incompetence during a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period cost them big time in a 2-1 loss to goalie Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres during the home opener at the Air Canada Centre on Monday evening.

"I'm not saying we had hours to practise it," said Carlyle, referring to the abbreviated training camp last week. "But we're going to work on it [Tuesday]."

Even Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a diehard Maple Leafs fan who dropped the ceremonial puck from outer space, could see from the International Space Station that two-minute stretch was the critical point in the game for Toronto.

Carlyle and the Maple Leafs could have easily chalked up this result to the standout goaltending of the 32-year-old Miller. He was awfully good, like he usually is against the rival Maple Leafs, with a 34-save performance. He was especially solid when the Maple Leafs had that 5-on-3 power play.

But the Maple Leafs didn't make excuses. They admitted to poor execution during that juicy first period opportunity to tie the game. They admitted there was a defensive breakdown - Carl Gunnarsson got caught out of position - on the Jason Pominville game-winner in the second period.

Moral victories don't count

The Maple Leafs played well enough. The effort was there. But moral victories don't count for much in this 48-game shortened season. The heat is on to win. The pressure is on to stop the string of futility of seven straight playoff-less seasons.

But being around the Maple Leafs for their first two games you get a sense that Carlyle's message has been getting through to his players.

He's made some sound moves. He's given a chance to 27-year-old rookie defenceman Mike Kostka, who now has two assists in two games and has looked extremely comfortable alongside captain Dion Phaneuf. Carlyle has put faith in Nazem Kadri, who has responded with two goals in two games.


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The Maple Leafs head coach also has given Tyler Bozak another shot on the first line, and he was on the point on the power play during that 5-on-3. Okay, not everything Carlyle has tried has worked. But Bozak scored in the opener on Saturday, and after an ordinary game in the face-off circle, he was much better against the Sabres, winning of 22 of 26 draws.

Carlyle also made the move to go with goalie Ben Scrivens over James Reimer. Scrivens has kept the Maple Leafs in both games.
The difference between Carlyle and his predecessor Ron Wilson is as night and day as the personalities of the bombastic Brian Burke and his unassuming replacement in the general manager's chair, Dave Nonis.

Carlyle preaches defence

Carlyle's focus is defence and attention to detail. He's been intense, but positive. Wilson was run and gun. When the Maple Leafs won he often took credit. When his team lost, he pinned the performances on his players or his goalie.

The new coach has hammered home he wants the losing to stop immediately. He doesn't want the Maple Leafs to be the league's laughing stock anymore.

"We're hammering that point amongst ourselves, too," Toronto forward Clarke MacArthur said. "We want to turn it around."

In order to do so, MacArthur, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul need to start scoring. Newcomer James van Riemsdyk also has yet to make his mark.

MacArthur, Kessel and Lupul did combine for 14 of their team's shots against Miller, including seven from Kessel and not including the shot he poked at that floated over the net late in the game. Neither of these big three has scored in two games.

It's only two games, but time already is ticking.

"We just don't want to be ordinary," Carlyle said.

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