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We can stop referring to Mike Kostka as an AHL’er….

We all know the Leafs remain a work in progress.  There will be nights when we wonder if any real progress is being made and others when we want to believe that we are not that far away from contention.

But one thing is clear:  this particular version of the blue and white seems destined to be in a lot of close games this season.  Until Thursday night’s Washington encounter at the ACC, the Leafs had been grabbing leads and sometimes struggling to close the deal.  Against a Caps team that has not been managing many wins this season, the home town boys made a spirited third-period comeback to snatch two big points in a season that is already going by very quickly.

(On a partially related note, as a pure hockey fan, I miss the old ‘run and gun’ Capitals, when Ovechkin was Ovechkin. It was a pleasure every single night just to see someone who played the game with so much skill, passion and enthusiasm.  But once Bruce Boudreau felt they had to start playing defense, and then Dale Hunter tightened the screws even further last season, the team has been, well, like watching the Devils.  Under Oates, they are neither fish nor fowl, it seems. And Ovechkin now looks  like a shell of his former self, though that's not a new observation, I guess.  Amazing…)


That Kulemin scored his first of the season should help him going forward.  Young van Riemsdyk not only scored a goal while taking up residence in front of Neuvirth most of the night (because the Leafs were on the power play so much), but he was getting a variety of scoring chances, which is normally a positive sign.  Kadri was dangerous as has been the case most of this season, setting up Frattin’s winner mid-way through the third period. The puck follows Kadri around, which never hurts, eh?

Kessel?  I don’t know that he can do much more than what he’s doing.  He is getting just about every kind of scoring opportunity imaginable (even the empty net at the end was not big enough in the dying seconds).  As I’ve said here many times before, the puck just isn’t going it.  I don't think his overall game this season is really any better or worse than before.  Bad luck, good goaltending, goalposts, a fraction of an inch here and there.  But he’s a threat when he’s on the ice, and that helps open things up for his linemates.

Bozak played big minutes again. McClement picked up another assist. Komarov went to the net on the winning goal.  Phaneuf registered more than 28 minutes again.  Ryan Hamilton acquitted himself well in fairly limited minutes and did his job in each situation he faced.  In short, lots of guys contributed to what turned out to be a nice win.

Maybe most importantly for me, Reimer was, well, the Reimer we knew in his rookie season.  He gave up an early one (which he did fairly often that season).  Then he gave up a bit of a stinker to an otherwise quiet Ovechkin.  After that, he shut the door.  He was particularly sharp in the last few minutes of the game, when the Capitals tested him fairly severely. He stood tall, and the Leafs now look to a match-up with the Bruins on Saturday with some confidence in tow, and a record of four wins and three losses.

Winning beats losing, every time.


Some of you will no doubt think, here we go again, but one guy that continues to impress me is Mike Kostka.  Oh, I know a lot of Leaf fans have been saying that he is the anchor around Phaneuf, that he shouldn’t be on the power play and is playing too many minutes for a 27 year-old rookie who has spent his whole career until now in the minors. 

I see a different picture.  I see a player filled with enthusiasm and skill.  Maybe he is a late bloomer, or a guy who has been over-looked and pigeon-holed as a minor-league player.  The hockey world is not beyond that kind of thinking.  It happens sometimes. 

As I have admitted before, I would not have known Mike Kostka six months ago from the man on the moon. But I am really impressed with his presence on the ice.  He can shoot, he moves the puck well, seems to know when to jump into the play.  Yes, he makes mistakes but I’m pretty sure he’s not the only Leaf (or NHL player, rookie or veteran) who makes mistakes.

It’s not just a “nice story” at this point, though Kostka’s surprise (for me, at least) emergence is certainly that.  Some have predicted he will soon end up back in the minors, or at the very least, with diminished minutes on the Leaf blueline—or a seat some nights up in the press box.  But I see something more.  And I’m pretty sure Carlyle knows more than me and if he really thought there was a better way to go—in terms of a partner for Phaneuf, ice time, or Kostka’s ability—than my guess is Kostka would not be playing anywhere from 22 to 28 minutes a game.  The Leafs have lots of defensemen in the system, with the big club and with the Marlies.  Clearly, Carlyle sees something he likes in Kostka.

Take away his minus 4 night against the Rangers, when he played 30+ minutes or so (and still did some good things; the whole team wilted under duress as that game wore on and the Ranger forwards took over) and would fans think he has not been a positive contributor?  I think he has been.

Will that change?  Sure, it might—maybe by a week from now.  I’m happy to hear arguments to the contrary, but for now, I won’t assume that Kostka won’t continue to show he’s a bonafide NHL player, and maybe even more than that, until he proves otherwise.

Bring on the Bruins.


  1. This years team quite different. Much better deapth and defensively.

    Just think of it: Kessle not scoring, Lupul out, MacArthur out...yet they are above 500.

    "Bring on the Bruins."

    This could be the one. In a moment that makes me think of that old-time killer, Larry Playfair...John Scott laid a beating on a Bruin:

    Buffalo won 7-4. Thornton is out.

    Plus the Leafs picked up Frazer McLaren. Orr, Mclaren and Fraser are all heavyweight fighters so we actually match up well against Boston's toughness. Boston's tough guys like Lucic and Chara are skilled so we trade well if they want to play that way.

    Could Kessel finally break out against his old team?

  2. Good points, DP. Bruins won't likely want to fight- given the trade off in skill level.

    And I like your thought on Kessel- after years of mostly frustration against his old team, and being overdue, Saturday could be the night for Phil...

  3. Hey Michael,

    the lack of luck in kessel shots finding the back of the net is becoming ridiculous - lol not even the empty net and damn neuvrith on the late game glove save - that was sick.

    We may have to look into how many cracks in the sidewalk did Kessel step on, OR did he break any mirrors - no goals for seven games curse? Did he run over a black cat (media scrum question postgame today).

    But we have to be happy that he is getting his chances and working hard and still keeping his mood cheerful - good for him.

    Hmm, I am still not sure about Kostka - he shows flashes, maybe more time will tell where his story shakes out - NHL or AHL.

    Good game today - Reimer a little shaky on the start but good recovery.

    And I just personally feel that we need to see more of Liles and Franson on the PP - Liles is a pretty good skaters and passer and Franson does have that nice shot from the point and can stick handle well at times. Maybe these guys can help out the weak PP of the leafs.

    Hmm, the Bruins - I still think we loose - well after the deflating season series last year - I can't predict a win until I see one - lol. But, yes we have picked up more size on the waivers today - 6'5" is a big man - one we probably need against the bruins.

    And it was rather satisfying to see someone lay a beating to the bruin's tough guys, now if this new leaf can bust lucic or chara then we have found a match or perhaps the man that took down Scott - a.k.a. Orr makes his mark.

    Can't wait for Saturday.

    And I agree winning is always much much more fun than loosing, but then I look at the draft and I say to myself - oh what is one more year of loosing if we can bag ourselves a MacKinnon, Druin, That finnish giant guy who's name I can't remember, or Jones - now that would be a early Christmas present - but oh well - looks like the caps will be getting one rather than us.

    Anon from Scarborough

  4. nice to see the marlies captain get an opportunity on the leafs squad last night.

    ovechkin has gone from super-stud on the ice to eunuch. seriously, what happened to this guy? his first couple of seasons he brought so much positive energy, and gave a huge effort every game (scoring talent, physical play, amazing!). now? not even close to his former-self.
    i dunno if anyone would agree, but i'd much rather have phil kessel even in his current slump, than ovechkin with his mopey face and lame-duck effort. kessel still has that positive-drive... ovechkin seems to just be coasting at this point.

  5. Oh boy, that last line sounded ominous...

    After watching the Rangers physically dominate the Leafs, I am really hoping to see them come back and go toe to toe with a physical team like this. I don't care if they win even. I just want to know that they can stand up to the challenge.

    Regarding Kostka (and Phaneuf). He has done a good job for sure, and has made far fewer flubs than you would expect a "rookie" in his position. That said, I would really like to see the ice team divided up a bit more evenly. Something tells me that Franson, Gunnarsson, and Liles will all play a more confident game if they are not treated as an afterthought. Not to mention the inevitable return of Gardiner. That's too many good defensemen on one roster (I can include Komisarek too, he has looked as good as he ever has this year) to push two guys to play 30 minutes.

    I have to say I'm quite encouraged by Kessel's play, and it appears his team is behind him too. He's having fun out there. The frustration he's had is showing in his aggressive play. It was almost comical to see him try to one-time a shot through the goalie's chest last night. The breaks will start to come his way, no doubt. In a matchup of snipers, he clearly outplayed Ovechkin, despite what the score sheet showed.

    Here's hoping I'm thinking positive after Saturday night!

  6. I know it's hard not to want a crack at some of those impressive draft-eligible players, Scarborough Anon, but the Leafs are also in a position to provide us with some winning hockey in the weeks ahead. It's important that players in this organization earn a chance to play in the spring time- when the games really matter. That kind of experience is something you can't buy, as they say, and could prove invaluable in the years ahead.

    The Bruins will no doubt be tough- they usually are. And I'm certainly not predicting a win. Bit it is time for Kessel to break out- and against his former team. We'll see!

  7. Not sure what is going on with Ovie, Alex C.. He was so dynamic and now seems moody far too often. No coach satisfies him. Can't be good for his teammates when everything focuses on the captain/superstar- and it's mostly negative vibes all around.

    Kessel is flying around, and everyone knows the puck will go in eventually. Yes, it would be nice if he was not a "streaky" player from a scoring standpoint, but it does not appear to be from lack of effort - or chances!

  8. Yes, I realized when I typed that last line in the story that it sounded a bit brazen, Pete. Not my intention, but my point is, I think, that we have to play them sometime- and at home, after a win, and feeling fairly good about ourselves should count for something.

    The Bruins have been a bit of a nemesis, for sure, in recent seasons. But as DP pointed out, they are not apt to try and intimidate through fighting because one of their guys in that mix is out. They won't want their skill guys sitting and watching from the penalty box.

    That said, my view remains what it has been for ages: real toughness is not simply fighting, but hard-hitting, physical hockey all over the ice. If you play like Bob Gainey and Terry O'Reilly and those guys, the other side knows it has been in a tough game- win or lose, as you say.

    Yes, let's see how we feel after the game on Saturday, Pete!

  9. Yes Michael, I absolutely agree on the fighting part. I may have misstated my intent in my post. The Leafs need to play a complete physical game in both ends to compete with the likes of Boston or New York.

    I really do wish there were more Gainey's and O'Reilly's today too, as well as the likes of Clark Gillies, Tiger Williams, and Al Secord. Talented players who fought passionately when appropriate, not the staged crap we have today.

  10. I understood your point- no problem at all, Pete. I was more reiterating my long-held view, in case new readers thought I was advocating punch-ups at the OK Corral every night. Thanks Pete.

  11. Hey Michael,

    u make a good point about the need to experience a consistent winning pattern for the young guys down the stretch - for them to really develop - here is hoping we make the playoffs and make a trade to perhaps get a first rounder that ends up being up there somewhere - now that would be something.

    Kessel very well may breakout against the bruins - he did it in the 09-10 season with a 2 goal performance in the great game - where Grabo came back after the chara hits to score in the last minute of the 3rd.

    Here is hoping for a big night for Kessel, Reimer and the Leafs against the big bad bruins on Saturday.

    Anon from Scarborough.

  12. Hi Michael,

    I still don't like Riemer's game yet as there isn't much of a calm in him that I can observe while under pressure. Still a little unsure especially with so many, what can be considered to be, weak goals given up in this early season. Sure he has won some games but there is still a lack of confidence in him and both teams can sense this and feed off on it. I do hope his game will improve but I am not so sure it will be to a degree that make significant difference this season. I stand corrected at season's end.

    Last night, it was nice to see a win but Washington is very beatable. Let's face it, Washington is not a team that can be consider a contending team. The Ranger's game I think is a better indicator as to where this team is truly at when compare to where we need to be. We are simply not there yet and as much as I hate to admit it, Ottawa is a much better team than us right now. Although a win last night, there are still huge issues that I can see with this team.

    The power play is weak and too highly reliant on Dion High and wide's shot. There are no pressures and no movement. Just peripheral play. I never understood why the players seems to have much lower tenacity on a PP verse the same situational play (offensive zone) if there were at full strength.

    The defence is still suspected when we get pass the top 3 which ends up requiring us to play Phaneuf and Kotska way too much. 22-24 minutes should be much more reasonable and efficient. Unfortunately Komi is just simply not the right fit on this team. I just don't think he is able to recover from the early set back and poor play (either via system wise or talent wise) now. I still think he is an asset, just not with the leafs. That said, we need someone like him on the team which appears contradictory. Someone who can take minutes off Dion, Kotsa and Gunner, while allowing Liles, Gardiner and Franson to be more creative. With the emergence of Reilly in a year or two barring unforeseen setback, we are too offence oriented in the back end. We need a more stable 20-22 guy back there. We are just not balanced and as much as I like Kotsa and suprised, he is playing way over his capacity which only will result in less quality minutes.

    As far as offence goes, I don't think we're as bad as people think. Just because we lack a number one center doesn't mean we have poor 2A 2B or 3. The key is balance attack. I would definitely prefer a balance line up vs top heavy. In the long run, you will not win on that alone. Look at how Vancouver is doing beyond the Sedins.

    I am hopeful but we are at least a couple of key pieces away from being competitive and several more from being in contention.

  13. This season affords an opportunity/necessity to do things a little differently than the 'norm'. Mike Kostka is one of those 'things'.

    He entered Leaf training camp in mid-season fitness and form; he is a mature 27 years old; he is a leading offensive (and responsible defensive) defenseman in the AHL and these factors are the primary reasons that Kostka is playing top minutes in the early post-lockout season. When you factor in the luxury of using this season as an extended pre-season, team identifying and re-casting tryout, I'm glad we can watch to see how Kostka might work out with an extended look.

    Kostka may well become a 2nd pairing defenseman (with Gardiner) down the road and Carlyle may well be using our present make-up in order to move Phaneuf to his strong side (as a Lefty) to find out where he can make his strongest contribution (while pressuring the other right side D to 'step up' in the competition for earned ice time).

    Lotsa' fodder for thought!

    I suspect that Komi is eye-poppingly frustrated because he is not being placed in the lineup despite an improved performance level and wonder if there is a good trade option on the table to which he won't consent (with his NTC). Is this 'snub' actually meant to bring pressure on him to waive said clause?

  14. All fair points, Lukas.

    I am probably seeing more confidence in Reimer than you are at the moment, Lukas, but I could certainly be proven wrong as well. Let's face it, confidence is a fragile thing for most athletes and especially goaltenders. If he can build on some "wins", maybe the head-slapping goals will diminish somewhat.

    I certainly won't dispute that Kostka will player lesser minutes going forward, especially as Gardiner takes back time on the blueline. We do need a hard-to-play-against defense pair, for sure, guys the opposition doesn't look forward to being out against. I don't see that we have that now, though there is some skill back there.

    Offensively I do think they will need those missing pieces to be a contender, but you are right, there is some balance up front.

    Solid post as always, thanks Lukas.

  15. Scarborough Anon- it's stating the obvious, but yes, playoff experience is usually a good thing for young players. It helps them, among other things, see what it takes to win when the competition is much, much tougher for every inch of the ice. So making it this season would be helpful in the long run, I think, even if they don't advance very far.

    The East has a lot of 'bubble' teams this season, as usual- the Leafs are one of them!

  16. I'd prefer to believe, InTimeFor62, that Komisarek's ill-timed injury setback came at the precise moment when he was in fact inserting himself in Carlyle's mind as an everyday-has to be in there defenseman.

    We'll see this weekend and beyond where he now fits in the coach's plans! But most of us would agree he was not hurting the team in the games he has played thus far. And a physical presence against the good teams (Rangers, Boston, etc.) is usually helpful.

    That said, who knows what the brass is thinking, in terms of trade possibilities....

  17. You may well be right about the timing of the setback which opened the door for Franson to be effective and earning a longer look... I do feel that Komi has been more reliable and effective, hence the increased possibility of a trade scenario.

    I've been thinking about all my trade speculations and came to the conclusion that I'm finding it hard to 'commit' to anyone on the team like a fan would desire because anyone could easily become a 'piece to be moved'. I want to be a fan with a finished product, yet feel more detached like a GM solving a puzzle!

  18. I wonder if the Mike Kostka detractors out there scouted his development from junior hockey in Ajax and Aurora, through his years at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. They are such experts on quantifying his hockey talent, I am sure they must have been sitting on cold arena benches for years, sipping Timmy's in thermos mugs and meticulously tracking his development. I can clearly see them quantifying his value, with Jim Corsi himself looking over their collective shoulders and nodding in approval. (No knock against Corsi, I volunteered at his hockey school years ago – he is a good and obviously intelligent man).

    I digress, and enough poking at stats monkey fans – here is my point. Probably most of the detractors never saw him play an AHL game. Yet, they are so confident in their evaluation. The truth is, some players develop more slowly than others, others are simply overlooked and never get the chance (Nathan Dempsey comes to mind). And the fact is this: We have a very small sample of NHL games to judge him by. For me at least, definitive judgments about Mike Kostka, at this stage, leave me with a distinct odor. These judgments are, a little too bullish in fact.

  19. I agree with your view on the caps: "neither fish nor fowl", and can't help think about the leafs under Ron Wilson in the same way. They were entertaining to watch, new what their strengths were (and were not). The entire league new that we were coming strait for them. If not for the monumental breakdown last season, things would be a lot different this year. This team now is not run and gun and it's not defense oriented and gritty like the coach wants, we just dont's have the players for it. So basically I think we're playing away from our strengths, trying to be what we are not. Run and gun, with some good defencemen and goalie = contender. Just like the caps were a few seasons ago.

    I also agree that Kostka should play a little less. He looks overworked.

  20. I don't think anyone who has a "realistic" take on things has worries about Kostka's ability. The issue is more about his minutes, which have been in a category you'd expect the very top defenders in NHL to be fielded, and even them mostly in very tight and/or relevant games. From what I've seen, I'd say Kostka could become a top four, possibly even a top pairing defenceman even in a good team. Do I believe the best way to get him there is throwing him off the ship in the middle of a sea and telling him to swim? No. It's a shortened season, sure. But for the players who'll be playing a 48-game regular season in under a hundred days, I doubt it'll feel short. Anyone playing insane minutes repeatedly is going to feel the effects down the stretch. And, as you said, Kostka's a 27-year old rookie. He's not eligible for Calder, so pushing him to the limit right away doesn't make any sense. I'm afraid if the current situation continues, nobody will come out of it looking pretty.

    This brings me to another point, one that mostly made me wary of Carlyle to begin with. I've never seen him leading a practice session, but after he was fired from Anaheim, Teemu Selänne suggested that while he had always been astute and inspirational coach, he did have a tendency to wear players physically out. Whether it was a really hard training camp even when your team starts the season in Europe and has to deal with jet lag afterwards, or extra skating practice after a poor team performance in any given game, Carlyle has never been too hesitant to push his guys. Apparently it applies to in-game minutes as well. Sure, you could throw Niedermayer and Pronger out there for the better part of a game and they'd mostly know how to pace themselves. Or, the former would do that, and the latter would get a suspension to recuperate himself, to put it more cynically. But we don't have Niedermayer and Pronger, we have Phaneuf and Kostka, who do not exactly compare outside the ice time.

    I've seen overall improvements since the Wilson era already. That's good, although regression would have been improbable. Kadri and Frattin have really been good, if not great, in these early days. Especially Kadri seems to go where the puck will come, more often than not. That's a talent some players have, and one that will improve with experience, but it can't really be taught.

    Still, if the on-ice minutes won't get balanced, I fear there won't be even a semblance of a happy ending for a Leafs fan still. Tired bodies will amount to bad penalties, bad allowed goals, and injuries. And there's only so much a human body can take. I'm still hopeful, but increasingly alarmed.

  21. I think your last statement is so interesting: as fans (and I can appreciate this as an older" Leaf follower like yourself, InTimeFor62) we really want to be able to identify with players who are part of us. When I was a kid in the '60s, it was a huge deal when someone was traded away from our team. Of course it is today as well, but nowadays we are all armchair managers- and especially so with this team. We feel that if we could just move this piece here, that guy over there, bring in these two players, all would be well, at long last, in Leaf world.

    We also know that it's not that easy, but it does make it harder to get fully behind a group of players when you spend half your time thinking about them being moved for better pieces!

  22. You said is awfully well, Bobby C..

    Along those same lines, when it comes to making bold assessments too early on, I realize I may also be over-valuing Kostka's potential contribution a bit too soon. I guess, like you, I'm simply loathe to dismiss what I am seeing with my own eyes, and am not quite willing to fall into the predetermined popular view that because he "was always an AHL player", that that is his ceiling. Maybe it it; maybe it isn't. Time will tell, eh?

  23. The Caps are a hard team to figure at this point, portuguese leaf. They had an identity four years ago. Skate like hell and score lots of goals. Come get us. Because they lost a playoff round when a goalie was outstanding, they changed everything around. In a lot of ways, given how boring hockey is these days at times, with all the checking, it's a shame.

    As for the Leafs, it's true, if Toronto under Wilson had extended their offensive prowess by a few weeks last season, we'd all likely be singing a different tune to this day. The former GM used to say he didn't want a trap-oritented, boring team. Well, that's where we're headed, along with most of the dull as butter NHL. But we're so desperate for something that "wins", we accept it as fans.

  24. Great post, CGLN. Selanne's words are worth keeping in mind going forward.

    Surely Kostka will play lesser minutes as the season moves along. Same with Phaneuf. Hopefully Carlyle will develop confidence in other defensemen and Gardiner will recuperate and play significant minutes, too.

    The puck does seem to come to Kadri. And Frattin, while generally just OK in my view in terms of his overall play, has been opportunistic, for sure.

    The Bruins will be a good test!

  25. I'd go as far as to say, the Bruins are THE test in the East, on any given day. And true enough about Frattin, his overall play hasn't moved the mountains, but he has taken his chances to the bank. In this game, that's better than good enough. It's not too far-fetched to say, that playing a good overall game while scoring little gets you pigeonholed as a checking line player faster than you can say "Cam Neely, Vancouver Canucks".

    Komarov has been a slight disappointment for me thus far. He's not a liability, but he's been nothing special, either. Pretty good on PK, has thrown his weight around a bit, but a complete non-factor offensively. He hits a bit, but there's no "edge" to his game thus far. I'm fairly sure he's just finding his footing at a new level, and he'll get there eventually, but I'd really have preferred him staying with the Marlies for the duration of the lockout. He, as a player, had nothing to gain by the switch back to KHL. His bank account had lots to gain, I'm sure, and there was no certainty of NHL coming back at that point.

    I was surprised at Franson coming back at all, as in early reports he had no NHL clause in his contract when he signed in Sweden. I think he might not have, but was disappointing enough over there for his club to have gone for the mutual release without a hitch, once the Leafs wanted him back around. And after his return, he could be wondering if he might have been better off in Switzerland, for example, where Canadian players who play well actually get more adulation than they do anywhere else across the globe, Canada included.

    The Leafs thus far into the season have been a strange mismatch of everything, that has gotten off to an acceptable start. They've gotten deserved points, and blown a few out of their collective asses. I don't know if Carlyle is a mad genius, or just plain mad. I have a bit of grasp on some individuals, but I can't figure the team out as a whole at this point. I'm clueless, which is why I voted "no" to your poll. I usually make bad picks when I gamble, so voting no gives me some hope.

  26. I too acknowledge that this current Leaf team leaves me with more questions than comfortable answers, CGLN. I suppose that is to be expected. As for Carlyle, it's so early that we can't really fairly assess. Teams almost always respond to the urgings of a new coach- especially a sometimes fragile team like this that has no recent history of success, and with so many guys just fighting for their NHL lives. Carlyle, as a "Cup winning" coach, has some cache, I'm sure. But so far, there is more Ron Wilson in this team than Carlyle some nights- or maybe players who can't play the way Carlyle wants them to.

  27. The "Cup winning" Carlyle is the last coach to win with an intimidation team. I believe we've touched that base in the past, Michael. They had a lot of skill up front, sure, but they were just plain ugly at times, and I don't think that type of play has any future, anymore.

    I don't want to see the Leafs ever play intimidation hockey, I want them to play good hockey. Sure, I'd like them to be tough enough to be able to give as good as they get, and to generally be "unintimidable" on ice. I like to see some fire and edge, once the game starts. Play hard, play fair, and play better than the other team, that's how I think games should be won. But our current coach didn't win his ring that way. The same ring Brian "Truculence" Burke won.

    Maybe, at some level, Carlyle has already worn out his welcome in my limited mind. He'll have the chance to prove me wrong in every game he coaches, and I have not seen "the Burke approach" by the Leafs in a single game this season, a couple of ridiculous fights notwithstanding. But I'm beginning to piece together why Burke and Carlyle won together, while having moderate success otherwise.

  28. Yes we have talked on this subject before, CGLN. I'm with you- I like a team that can play hard between the whistles and can take and give a hit and win the tough areas: along the boards, the corners and in front of both nets.

    If a team does that, they'll generally be fine.

    Carlyle's ability to adjust, as all good coaches must, will be under scrutiny here...