March 10, 2012
Carlyle restoring a competitive edge
By Steve Buffery, QMI Agency
TORONTO - In the four games since Randy Carlyle took over behind the bench, the Maple Leafs have one win, two losses and one shootout loss.
But they deserve better than that. On Saturday night, the Leafs outshot the Flyers, but even more impressive, out-chanced Philadelphia. However, they lost by one goal, 1-0 in a shootout.
Last week against the Boston Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, they lost by one goal, and against the Pittsburgh Penguins, another elite Eastern Conference team, they lost by one goal. Carlyle has them in every game.
“We asked the players the last couple of days to help create an identity for this hockey club,” said Carlyle, whose message to his team is to stop being only a “rush” team, and become a cycling team. “Just because we’re not a big, overly large team, we can’t do that. We can do that.”
BOWL OF JELL-O
Who knows if the other Canadian GMs or somebody at the CBC got to Don Cherry, but Coach’s Corner on Saturday night was toned down considerably compared to last weekend’s tirade.
“A bowl of Jell-o is more controversial,” is how my colleague Terry Koshan put it. Koshan, by the way, is from the same berg as that pretentious rodent, Wiarton Willie.
Cherry caused a major stir last Saturday when he dumped all over Leafs GM Brian Burke, suggesting that Big Burkie tried to get him fired. He also hammered Burke for not having any Ontario boys on the Leafs roster. The most controversial comment Grapes made this Saturday was that, in his opinion, Sidney Crosby should not come back and play this season, even though the Penguins superstar is said to be symptom free after missing most of the season with concussion related problems. Grapes said Crosby’s not “battle hardened” enough to return. Cherry also gave a shout-out to Saskatchewan as a possible future location for an NHL franchise, insisting that a team in the Potash-rich province would sell-out “in 15 minutes” and would be a guaranteed success.
Cherry did not talk about the Maple Leafs too much, perhaps to appease the other Canadian team GMs who reportedly feel that he devotes too much of his show to them.
And, yes, there was the requisite Coach’s Corner shill: The Wrath of Grapes, Part 27, or whatever, will be broadcast on Sunday night.
Ilya Bryzgalov was the story in Philly’s 1-0 win. After a rocky start to the season, Bryzgalov has been red-hot of late. The Russian goaltender, who signed a nine-year, $51-million contract in the off-season, was 7-2-0 in starting the Flyers’ previous 10 games prior to Saturday, with a 2.17 goals against average. He made some huge saves against the Leafs to earn the shutout, particularly in the second period on Clarke MacArthur, Matthew Lombardi and Matt Frattin, and then on Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel in the shootout.
Defenceman John-Michael Liles still needs one point for 300 ... Is there any point playing a kid like Frattin, who has considerable offensive skill, on the fourth line? Frattin had a good scoring chance in the second, but he seems to be wasted playing with plumbers ... With the score tied 0-0 late in the game, Leafs Nation on Twitter was fretting big time that goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who had a solid game, was going to let in one of his patented bad goals late. He didn’t ... The Leafs were 0-for-3 on the power play. The Flyers did not go on the PP ... Philly players blocked 23 shots, nine for the Leafs. Andreas Lilja had seven blocks alone ... During the first two periods, the teams were extremely sluggish. Cherry said the first period looked like the game was being played in slow motion.