When speaking with the media, Randy Carlyle has been very careful to not be too critical of his team's performance in the early going, thanks to a 3-0 record.
But when the team is 20 minutes late coming on the ice for practice following a game
in which it committed a whopping 33 giveaways, you know the Toronto Maple Leafs
head coach wasn't behind closed doors gently singing their praises.
The Maple Leafs have received solid goaltending for the better part of three games, and that is why they are undefeated. If they continue to turn the puck over the way they have, though, their winning streak won't last much longer.
"I wouldn't say they haven't played a good game yet; I'd say there are parts of our game we have to improve on," Carlyle said. "I think the games in general have been sloppier than we would have expected and that's the reason for the number of turnovers and lack of execution and the fumbling of pucks."
Through three games, the Maple Leafs lead the NHL in giveaways with 50. Winnipeg is second with 40. This is very familiar territory for Toronto, which led the NHL in giveaways last year with 554, 75 more than the Edmonton Oilers who were second.
Asked if he questioned the decision making of some of his players, Carlyle responded, "I question some of the decisions I've made. That's the nature of the game. The players have the most pressure because they are the ones put in the playing field and they are out there executing. It's a lot easier from where I stand and from where you guys sit.
"The further you get away from the game, the easier it looks. It looks so easy, but when you are at ice level things happen so quickly. There's sticks in the laneways and the puck bobbles and you have to factor that in. Plus, you have the opposition out there trying to prevent you from doing the things you want to do."NO GOALIE CONTROVERSY
Carlyle was asked Saturday night how Jonathan Bernier's
heroic entry into the contest in the second period to help his team rebound from a 4-2 deficit affects the way he'll handle his two goalies moving forward and offered, "It makes it easier."
With that in mind, one can expect Bernier to get the start Tuesday when the Maple Leafs host the Colorado Avalanche. Carlyle has been very impressed with what he has seen from the former Los Angeles King.
"His calmness and maturity are both noticeable with him," the coach said. "He's at peace with himself. I think he understood coming here that he was going to get an opportunity to compete for a position and those three points have made him feel like he's worthy of the competition and we're going to continue to have that competition between the goalies for 1A and 1B."
Bernier said he is not getting caught up in the competition for work between himself and James Reimer
"I don't focus on that," Bernier said. "From Day 1, I said that I am going to focus on myself and not focus on what Reim's is doing. I went through that in L.A. and I think going through that helped me."
Bernier, who won the Stanley Cup with the Kings two years ago, said he likes what he has seen from his new club thus far.
"We know we didn't play our best and yet we found a way to win three games," Bernier said. "That's the bottom line. We know we can play definitely way better than we have."HOMEGROWN TALENT
Coach Carlyle said it helps to have some homegrown talent on the team, but that is not a priority when putting the roster together. David Bolland is from Mimico; David Clarkson from Toronto and Jamie Devane from Mississauga.
"It's always a plus, but we're no different than any other coaching staff or management staff; we just want good players and we don't care where they come from," Carlyle said. "It's a bonus if they're from your market, but we want good players. I don't care if they come from Timbuktu. It is a nice little added touch when you have local guys coming into the market place and playing well. They are expected to be part of the leadership corps."CAPTAIN CALLED UP
The running joke is if you are named captain of your minor league affiliate, it hurts your chances of getting called up to the NHL.
That certainly is not true in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last season, Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton played 10 regular season games with the Maple Leafs and two more in the playoffs.
On Monday, the Maple Leafs called up new Marlies captain Trevor Smith
, who had three goals and five points in two games with the Marlies on the weekend. Carlyle said if a player is playing well and the Maple Leafs need a body, they are going to go with the hot hand.
"That was why we brought Spencer Abbott up, because he was the best player down there according to their coaching staff," Carlyle said. "We brought Smitty up because he performed well in the two games. For us it's about reward and allowing our young kids to get an opportunity because they went out and earned it. It's a novel concept."
Smith had played 24 NHL games with the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
Smith said he welcomes this latest opportunity to play in the NHL and he was assured by Marlies coach Steve Spott that being a captain in the minors wouldn't be a stumbling block for him.
"It's a good opportunity," Smith said. "Seeing that guys are getting called up as leaders not just being left in the minors is good for a guy's confidence. Steve Spott told me being the captain would not affect me and they would take the best player at the right time when a player is needed and here we are now."LIVE AND LEARN
Nineteen-year-old rookie defenceman Morgan Rielly
was minus-3 in his NHL debut Saturday against Ottawa, but got stronger as the game went on.
"It's a bit different here than in junior," Rielly said. "In junior you can pretty much go with the puck where up here you have to pick your spots. Things have been going well, but there's always room for improvement."
Rielly said he is anxious to get another crack at playing in the NHL and hopes it comes Tuesday against Colorado.
"I've had the opportunity to play the game over in my head and there were a few plays I wish I could change," Rielly said. "That's hockey. I think if I get a chance to play again I won't make those mistakes and hopefully I'll play better."
With two goals (one game-winner) and three points in Toronto's first three games, David Bolland has shown why the Maple Leafs were anxious to acquire him during the summer.
One player who doesn't need to be familiarized with Bolland is his new linemate, Mason Raymond, who leads the team in scoring with two goals and four points and played against him often while with the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks and Bolland's former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, have built quite a rivalry.
"I played against him a lot in the playoffs and he's one of those guys that sees the ice so well," Raymond said. "He's a great two-way player. He's reliable in his own end and he has great offensive instincts. It has been enjoyable to play with him and he's won two Cups. That speaks volumes about him."
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