It’s not that we should be identifying a group of players or a particular line or a defence pair that needs to be changed in order for the Leafs to get back on track after what, in fairness, has been three really poor games in a row despite the win over Minnesota. It’s better team play overall that is required.
The Leafs forwards need to commit to getting back, supporting the defence, and transitioning up the ice as a unit by breaking out with good puck support. What I thought Carlyle’s team did better, in the very general sense last season, was pressure the puck when they didn’t have it (the team used its speed to get in the face of the opposition, finish a check, and slow them down), and support the puck better when in possession on the breakout (while this wavered throughout the season, sometimes being really poor, we saw progress in this area particularly as the playoff series wore on against Boston). We’ve seen some bad habits developing on the breakout and a lack of forechecking pressure which allowed the Hawks to dominate the Leafs for huge spells unabated on Saturday night.
Carlyle was preaching patience, trying to stay positive, and taking it light and easy with some wrong-handed ball hockey to start today’s practice in place of a bag skate. Carlyle mentioned himself that “everyone” was expecting a grueling skate today, but he seems confident he can get through to the players without lashing them so early on in the process. “New Carlyle,” and all that. I’m sure the injuries (and suspension) factors into Carlyle’s patience here as well.
After the ball hockey, Carlyle had the team work on some neutral zone stuff in practice today, stressing a need for the Leafs to ratchet up their pace between the bluelines.
Carlyle will coach against the Anaheim Ducks for the first time as bench boss of the Leafs 24 hours from now. Let’s hope the players take stock of RC’s patient approach and really put it on the line for him tomorrow night. You know Carlyle wants this win and hopefully the players deliver him a better effort.
Is 40 games the new 9 games for Rielly?
There was a point worth noting from Elliott Friedman’s 30 Thoughts, in case you missed this discussion on an earlier thread today, as it pertains to Morgan Rielly’s status. Apparently, while the Leafs would burn the first year of Rielly’s ELC by playing him in his 10th game, he has to be on the active roster for 40 games before the credit goes to his arbitration and free agency determinants. The 40th game of the season is also right around Christmas time, so the World Junior consideration could also play into it.
Rielly has done enough to prove that both him and the team would benefit from Rielly staying beyond 9 games. By the 40-game mark, the new car smell will have worn off and we should have a pretty good idea of where he stands.