The Leafs go seeking out an ever-elusive regular season victory at TD Garden tonight.
– Randy Carlyle has apparently had an epiphany:
Randy Carlyle says he’s been playing Jay McClement “way too much.” Plans to abandon checking line with Peter Holland back.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 14, 2014
This has been the funny thing about Carlyle. He does some frustrating things with his roster decisions, only to suddenly, albeit belatedly, accurately diagnose the issues he’s – at least in part – created himself. It reminds me of game 1 vs. the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, when we all shouted that he can’t play both enforcers and sit Jake Gardiner if we want to beat these guys. We had to lose 4-1 before it sunk in. Better late than never.
That all said, we’ll have to see how it plays out. Maybe Carlyle doesn’t like a shift from Holland and goes back to what he trusts with McClement. Sounds like the right idea to start, anyway.
– It also probably has a lot to do with David Clarkson’ status sounding doubtful for tonight, which throws the shutdown line out of whack. He was apparently up all night vomiting due to the flu.
– This will be the third of four season meetings vs. the Bruins tonight. The Leafs lost the first two games by a combined score of 8-3. They had periods in both where they looked competitive, including the first period in the 5-2 loss (took a 1-0 lead) and the final two periods in the 3-1 loss back in early November (tied the game up in a dominant second period, gave up the 2-1 goal in the third, conceded an empty netter).
– The challenge with the Bruins is, of course, dealing with their forecheck. We got a glimpse of what the opposition coaches target on the Leafs on 24/7 when we heard Mike Babcock reiterate his directive to work over the Leafs D down low. This wasn’t particularly surprising to see/hear.
– Who can forget the infamous 2:10 minute shift in the Leaf end, while Ranger and Fraser fumbled around and Kulemin lost his stick, last time the Leafs were in Boston?
– The Leafs followed up that crazy-bad first period with an 18-shot 2nd period (maybe their best single period shot total all season?). Phaneuf threw two great hits and once the Leafs could actually string some passes together coming out of their zone, they were able to establish a forecheck, cycle and outskate the Bruins.
– Carlyle will likely leave the defence as it was, but it’s worth considering that Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson are always amazing together against the Bruins. Gardiner was Bruin kryptonite in the playoffs last season, and both have been able to move the puck efficiently against the Bruin forecheck. They seem to elevate their physical games, as well.
– The Boston Bruins have gone 3-4 (with one win in OT) and allowed 21 goals in 7 games since top-pairing rock Dennis Seidenberg went down injured for the year. The matchup will be a little less intimidating for the Leafs’ top line tonight. Zach Boychuk has been playing with Chara in Seidenberg’s place.
– Jonathan Bernier will start for the ninth time in the last 10 games. He wasn’t very good last time out vs. Boston in the 5-2 loss at the ACC. Tuukka Rask is the likely starter for the Bs.