Randy Carlyle certainly didn’t join the Maple Leafs at an easy point in their schedule. Tonight’s game against Boston will test the club’s new direction and resilience. The damage the Bruins inflicted in their last two trips to Toronto definitely hasn’t been forgotten by the players, as they were blowouts that saw Boston hit six and seven goals in the month of November. Although one cannot expect a massive difference in play over the span of a week, this matchup will serve as a good benchmark for the team’s progress.
Previously, the Bruins were one of those teams that were able to shut down the speed in Toronto’s game. In doing so, they created numerous turnovers and odd-man chances that, as a good team (against questionable goaltending), they capitalized on. As Carlyle is attempting to instill a conservative approach that only deploys the speed in safe, calculated attacks, it would seem fair to guess that success on his part would see this team eventually be a better match against the Bruins.
It will be interesting to see if this shift in mentality has an effect on the club’s scoring prowess. Certainly, we all hope it shores up our porous defense, but clearly a reduction in GA often necessitates a decrease in GF as well. Â On ice, we may see this in the form of less fast breaks up the boards that are due to the sometimes wild rim-arounds that our defense has been prone to attempt in an effort to jumpstart the breakout.
As Cody Franson said:
“He likes to pay a lot of attention to how you enter your own zone in a defensive manner. In a defensive zone he wants you to approach it defence-first.Â He doesnâ€™t want you cheating to the wall assuming youâ€™re going to have a rim come around up that wall. He wants you to protect the middle of the ice and move from there.”
With that in mind, it is possible that we’ll see a slight regression in the scoring rate of wingers such as Kessel and Lupul. Both players love to pick a puck up with speed, explode down the wing, and either get off a shot or make a play. Of course, increased defensive focus could also produce more turnovers in the defensive end, something the two all stars would also be able to capitalize on. Regardless, the final quarter of this season will allow us to see what (if any) effects Carlyle has on this young Maple Leafs team.