Randy Carlyle has been around the Stanley Cup playoffs block. As a player, the 1980-81 Norris Trophy winner suited up for 69 NHL postseason games. When he steps behind the bench of the Toronto Maple Leafs for Game 6 of the first-round series against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, it will be Carlyle's 68th time as an NHL head coach.
Randy Carlyle has been around the Stanley Cup playoffs block.
As a player, the 1980-81 Norris Trophy winner suited up for 69 NHL postseason games. When he steps behind the bench of the Toronto Maple Leafs for Game 6 of the first-round series against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, it will be Carlyle's 68th time as an NHL head coach.
He would very much like to coach a 69th this season to match his player record. With 39 career wins in the bank, he would very much like to deposit his 40th postseason win, too, and extend the series back to Boston for a seventh and deciding game on Monday.
But Carlyle knows that with his team's latest win the Bruins have been poked. They have been angered. If the Maple Leafs want to survive they better not take the final period off like they did on Friday in their 2-1 win in Game 5 on Friday.
"I think that we have to really make sure that our preparation is proper, and we've already spoken to them about that after the game and made sure that we do the right things between now and the faceoff on Sunday night," the 57-year-old Carlyle said. 'Very desperate hockey club'
"It's of vast importance that we take care of every little thing that we can physically and mentally might be just as difficult because we were in a situation where we had to win a game on the road. Now we're going back home and I'm sure that we've poked the Bruins. They're going to be a very desperate hockey club come Sunday night and we've got to be equally as desperate."
Carlyle received an outstanding effort from his players in Game 5. Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur scored unassisted goals to build a 2-0 lead early in the third period. Then the Maple Leafs turned the game over to goalie James Reimer and hung on for dear life.
The Maple Leafs will have to show up for a full 60 minutes on Sunday because the Bruins feel they can build off their dominating third period in Game 5.
"We played good the second half of the game and I think we just have to take that with us to Toronto and start the game there like we finished here," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. "It's really not good enough when you play 30 minutes out of 60 minutes in the playoffs and I think that's what we have to learn from this and be ready for."
Look for Carlyle and assistant coach Dave Farrish, who handles the defence, to distribute the ice time evenly among the top-four defenders like they did in Game 5. Players like captain Dion Phaneuf are better off when they don't get overloaded.
It was actually Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner who received the most ice time at 24 minutes and five seconds in Boston on Friday, followed by Cody Franson (22:50), Carl Gunnarsson (22:33) and Phaneuf (21:38).
It wasn't pretty, but the Maple Leafs managed to squeak out the win. The Bruins not only fired 44 shots on Reimer, but the Maple Leafs blocked 27 shots. Ryan O'Byrne led the way with five blocks.
Meanwhile, Reimer's 43 saves was the most for a Maple Leafs goalie in a non-overtime playoff game since Mike Palmateer stopped 47 shots more than 30 years ago at home in a 6-3 win versus the Minnesota North Stars on April 9, 1983.
The Maple Leafs, however, were eliminated by the North Stars the following night. This edition of the Maple Leafs will seek their first playoff victory at home since Mats Sundin scored twice to lead to Toronto to a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 30, 2004.
Right now, the Maple Leafs have belief in themselves that they can win at home and extend the series.
"We obviously believe in each other and what we can accomplish as a team, but I don't think we're ahead of ourselves," Reimer said. "We've still got a long road ahead of us and we've got to come out in two days and play hard. It's going to be another tough battle and we're going to have to bring our 'A' game to try to squeak out a win."
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.