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Can the Leafs rebound in Game 2?

The above question is one we tackle on the latest “Leaf Matters” podcast (Episode #61), on the heels of the Game 1 loss in Beantown.  I’m sure there will be a few lineup changes—I’m guessing Frattin draws in, maybe Gardiner or O’Byrne, perhaps even Colborne, though I kind of doubt the latter will get his shot just yet. 

That said, I would be hesitant to get too excited about the troops coming in to save the day, as it were.  The guys leaving the lineup, despite the harping from some quarters in Leafland, are not the sole reason we lost in the opening game of the series.  There weren't just "mistakes"- there were a few passengers as the game went on, and not much push back in the third period—and I don’t mean fights.

If the Leafs are going to win this series—or at least make it a series—their “will” needs to increase markedly, starting in game 2.

In any event, fans all have their opinions as to what Carlyle should do.  And that’s fair.  That’s what we do as Leaf supporters.  But having reviewed some of the rather extreme “opinions” out there, I’m relieved Carlyle is making the decisions, not some of the fans that critique his every move.

On that note, here is something I posted in dialogue (in the VLM comments section) with one of the tremendous posters here, Bobby Craig, who I always refer to as Bobby C.:

…I have kept calling it an "experimental" year for Carlyle, who clearly does not have the roster he wants—and needs. And further, that we, as fans, have to accept that just making the playoffs (sad as that is to admit) was as much as we could have possibly hoped for, and any playoff success would be a cherry on the top of the sundae.

  I don't have the answer, because I sense Leaf fans are all over the map, Bobby. Some expected failure this season, but now expect playoff success. I get it. I wrote about this very thing a couple of ago. Once you get to the dance, you want to actually dance.

But we have not been good for years, and on nights like last (Wednesday) night, it doesn't feel as though all the developing, drafting, etc. is looking as good as when we have a big game against a good team.

  A long-winded way of saying I hear exactly what you are saying. I would have liked to see, as I have noted here many times over the past two seasons, true leaders and guys with playoff experience in the locker room. It's tough to win at this time of year without that.

  If, though, this is a "bonus" year for Nonis, if just making the playoffs was enough, then my point, I guess, is they achieved that—as modest an achievement as that is.

  The series is far from over, but if players, management or fans are looking for more, it won't be simply roster changes, it will be (about) desire and willpower.

I also engaged with another of my favourites here, Don (TML_fan).  I noted:

…All I will say is we can all (and I do too, though not always here...) pick at the coach's roster decisions and line configurations, but I know from working with many coaches at that level over many years that they spend far more time than the rest of us trying to find the best rosters, combinations and all that to exploit the opposition's weaknesses. They look at film obsessively and know what they are trying to accomplish.

At some point, the players have to do the job asked of them and do it on a consistent basis. And for the past few weeks, the Leafs have often struggled in a number of areas, as we all know.

  When Gardiner played, and I'm talking about when he was healthy after having played a long while with the Marlies, etc.,( not right after he returned from a concussion) Carlyle gave him plenty of ice time and Gardiner struggled badly. Others may see it differently, but sometimes we see what we want to see. So f he can come in and play well, great, but I personally don't blame the coach for not just letting him go out there and lead rushes and give up the puck in his own zone when he was asked to play defense first. (Other guys make the same mistakes, agreed, but they are at least trying to play defense first. At times, they are simply not capable, which is a roster issue, not a coaching issue...)

And finally, in a chat here with an excellent writer (Mark Ascione from The Hockey Writers), I commented:

Re Carlyle: I've made similar points myself, Mark. The guy has not even coached this team a full 82-game season and people want him gone. For the life of me it never ceases to amaze me how many people honest-to-goodness think a) they know more hockey than a good NHL coach b) they would do things somehow differently and thus do a better job  c) actually, truly believe they know the players on the roster—and their capabilities and limitations—better than the coach who works with them every day and d) relies on this opinion mostly because of some statistical thingy. (The whole stat thing is getting out of hand, if that is the kind of analysis and thinking that it produces.)

Yes, it's a young team; has flaws; has little true playoff experience and little proven, effective leadership. All things I've raised ad nauseum here, while still trying to provide some hopeful discussion around a team people love one day and seem to loathe the next and hasn't won a thing of note in almost ten years.

Hey, they may go on to win a Cup this spring, but were we really thinking that was possible six months ago?  Two weeks ago?


Lineup changes? Sure. Coaches always do that. In Toronto and in every other city where a team loses a playoff game. That's the nature of things. Frattin or Gardiner may provide a spark, absolutely. Still, nobody wants to hear it, but if we think they will somehow turn a series around, well, I'm not sure what to say. They'd have to be a hell of a lot better than they were when they played in the regular season season—and do it consistently throughout an entire series, then another...

The bottom line: the whole team has to play better, smarter, harder. You can roll any line combinations you want, any breakout system you want, but the players have to execute and be hard on the puck every inch of the ice. The best system in the world won't overcome a lack of desire when the other guy wants the puck more.

So can the Leafs make a statement with some old-time play, fueled by passion and determination?  That’s what we tackle in the podcast.  We cover a range of Game 1 topics while looking ahead to the Saturday night re-match in Boston.

As always, the show is available on iTunes and of course on the emerging PodAlmighty Network.

By all means let us know if you enjoy the show (if you don’t, my guess is you’re not listening!).  And if you do, I invite you to take a moment and leave us feedback and rate the show on iTunes.  We’re always looking to provide a little different ‘take’ on the Leafs, from a fan perspective.


  1. Can the Leafs rebound in Game 2?

    Sure, the most encouraging thing about the last game is that Grabovski had his best game in weeks.

    The Leafs have won games this season when just one or two lines are scoring. If we could get one of those magical nights and get scoring from three lines along with a night of hot goal-tending, we could win.

    1. Grabbo certainly had some jump and fought through some huge hits, DP. Need all hands on deck, though, tonight- and for 60 minutes!

    2. 8 different forwards had points tonight, so I got the game I wanted.

      I like Hamilton's size in the line up.