Randy Carlyle has some advice for Nazem Kadri: "Stay level, stay focussed."
Carlyle hasn't been the coach of the Maple Leafs for very long, but he already knows things can quickly get hyped out of proportion in Canada's biggest hockey market.
Kadri scored a nifty shootout winner against future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur on Friday in New Jersey and people already are labelling him as the saviour of the Leafs.
Pretty much everyone knows that Kadri has some slick puck-handling skills, and Brodeur isn't the first goalie he has made look foolish in the shootout, but the London native also has some defensive deficiencies in his game that have made it difficult for him to stick with the big club.
"I don't want things to get blown out of proportion here, and that's one thing about this market when somebody has some success there are a lot of accolades that go his way and he earned them last night," Carlyle said of Kadri's performance against the Devils. "But again, he's a young player that has to continue to push to be better and give us the type of minutes that are safe and try to utilize his skill-set. And I think he did that for parts of last night's game."
When asked after the Leafs morning skate on Saturday if he had any advice for Kadri, Carlyle responded: "Stay level, stay focussed. This is the NHL and there is a lot of work ahead of him. He has to stay focussed on doing the little things day in and day out."
While Kadri also produced a regulation goal from a tip-in off a low slap shot from defenceman Jake Gardiner and was an even in just under 14 minutes of ice time, Carlyle knows there is room for improvement.
"I didn't isolate the camera on Kadri last night defensively, I didn't do that on most of the players, all I'm saying is he has areas to improve and defence would be one of them," the Leafs coach said.
UNDER THE LIGHTS
Kadri's linemate on Friday was Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton. Both Kadri and Hamilton were emergency callups from the AHL club on Thursday after Matt Frattin and Clarke MacArthur went down with injures.
It was the first NHL game for Hamilton, a native of Oshawa, so being able to pick up an assist on Kadri's goal was pretty special.
"It was an exciting first game," said Hamilton who lined up with Kadri on either side of Mikhail Grabovski for the opening puck drop. "To get that first shift out of the way, taking it to overtime and then the big win in the shootout, it was definitely a great experience."
Hamilton said he was excited by the prospect of playing at the Air Canada Centre in front of a Hockey Night in Canada audience.
"Obviously it's special playing here in Toronto. I'm from the area and have lots of friends and family here. It's a special Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada. I watched it as a kid and dreamed of this opportunity."
Hamilton said he was expecting some family to be at the ACC, including his wife's father who flew up from Houston, Tex., to experience his first NHL game.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
During the Leafs-Devils game Friday, Toronto defenceman Luke Schenn laid out Jacob Josefson along the boards in the third period. It was a big hit and something the Leafs undoubtedly would like to see from their young defenceman more often.
"It's part of my game and I enjoy doing it," Schenn said of the hit. "When the chance is there to get physical you definitely want to do that to make it tough on the other team's opposing forwards. Everyone is trying to bring up the physical play a little bit and be a tougher team to play against."
Physicality is definitely a trademark of Carlyle's teams.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM?
Kadri said he hadn't really planned what he was going to do against Brodeur when he scored his nifty shootout winner on a deke, but he said it was to his advantage to be the third Leafs shooter.
"I kind of didn't know what to think going up against him but luckily I went third and got to see what a couple of guys did before I made my move," Kadri said. "I just went down on instinct and made a move and was lucky to put it in."
Kadri will be looking to show a little more of that instinct in the days ahead in this his third callup of the season with the Leafs.