There were probably times during his team's eight-game losing streak when the old-school coach inside Randy Carlyle wished he could put his players through a midnight or 6 a.m. bag skate.
It's pretty hard to get away with that these days, what with mandated days off thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement.
However, as much as Carlyle loves to be at the rink and would probably practice twice a day if he could, he rewarded his players with an optional practice Wednesday morning, a day after the Maple Leafs
snapped their losing streak with a 3-2 victory
over the Calgary Flames.
"It's not so much a reward," Carlyle said. "We've got some banged up bodies. It's more about saving some energy for the game [Thursday] night. We just felt this would be the best avenue to take today."
The players were happy with the coach's decision.
"It's the end of the year so everyone is pretty tired," said centre Tyler Bozak. "We have huge games coming up and we feel we are still in the hunt so we have to be rested."Big, bad Bruins
It's probably a good thing for the Maple Leafs that they have the night off Wednesday while their Thursday opponents, the Boston Bruins
, have a game in Detroit. Carlyle, however, said his team should not be fooled into thinking the Bruins will be tired and therefore an easy mark.
"If you look at their record they are 16-0-3 in the last little while, so there's a hockey club that is playing pretty well," Carlye said. "The one thing about the Bruins is they don't really change. They do what they do and they do it as good as anybody in the league.
"They move people in and out of the lineup and [those people] have to play their way. If they don't play their way, they don't play."Saving your best for the best
The Maple Leafs pushed the Bruins to seven games in the first round of the playoffs last season and have played them well this year. Carlyle said sometimes the better teams bring out the best in their opponents.
"There's a level of desperation that goes into it from our standpoint," Carlyle said. "When you play teams of that caliber you have to be on top of your game. You have to be playing at your highest level. You have to be prepared to compete in the smallest areas of the ice because they've got a big hockey club and they play the same way. You have to be prepared to earn your space on the rink."Leafs too casual?
During their eight-game losing streak, the Maple Leafs suffered through poor starts to games and there were instances when they did not appear to be a team desperately seeking a playoff spot.
Carlyle, though, disagreed.
"I would say there was frustration and then there was our inability to execute and our mental breakdowns," he said.
"I'm sure it appeared that way when we made mental mistakes and went to the wrong areas, but what happens is the nervousness grasped our group at times and we just got into that freeze mode and stopped skating and doing what we had to do to be successful."Record was deceiving
Early in the season Carlyle was very guarded when his team was winning but not playing as he wished. He was often heard to say he wouldn't be too critical after a win, but there was plenty of work still ahead for the team. Now he can finally say it -- they simply were not good enough.
"I don't think we played as well as our record indicated earlier in the year," he said. "We found ways to win and it masked a lot of deficiencies."
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