At least one member of the Toronto Maple Leafs was fired up for Tuesday's game.
Asked about his team's embarrassing record at home of late, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle didn't hold back in his morning press conference, as he offered a very frank account of what he sees as his team's issues prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes.
Toronto hasn't won a game at the Air Canada Centre in nearly two months, dating back to a 6-3 win over the lowly Edmonton Oilers in early February.
They're 0-6-3 at home in that span and, on the season, have a better home record than only three other teams.
“That's what we’ve asked of our players is we have to demonstrate some more will, pride, passion, whatever, because it’s gone on long enough," Carlyle said on Tuesday morning. "That was our message after practice yesterday - that’s it’s unacceptable to have the home record that we have right now.
"That’s what we’re going to ask of our players - that they are the ones [who have to change it] And we as a coaching staff have to find a way to motivate this group to play to a higher level. It has to start tonight.”
Carlyle was also very clear in the fact that, even though the Leafs are basically eliminated, he still wants them to play hard every night.
Toronto has been out shot nearly 2-to-1 over its last five games, just one sign that a few of them may be mailing in the season's final few weeks.
"When we go to work, we’re going to work," he said. "We’re not going to just put time in. I don’t think that’s what’s really called for here. I don’t think anybody that’s been in pro sports in these situations would let off the gas pedal. I don’t think that’s right. I think that’s an improper message to send to people.”
'Confidence is low'
In the three-plus weeks since he took over, Carlyle has again and again pointed to a lack of confidence as the main reason for Toronto's continued struggles, and that was something he talked about on Tuesday at length.
Here were his latest comments on the subject, which came after he was asked if he was surprised at how the Leafs haven't been able to turn things around.
“That’s part of the [lack of]confidence when [a new coach]comes into these situations," Carlyle said. "Confidence is low. The skill set of the group was being tested from a point where they just weren’t able to accomplish the things they’re capable of accomplishing. And as a coaching staff, that’s your responsibility to try and rebuild that [confidence]
"You can see the nervousness in our players. And that directly, from my perspective, is a lack of confidence, nervousness, [you]don’t want to make a mistake, there’s a lot of things that are compiling that go into that. What we’ve tried to do, and I’m probably an old school guy from that perspective, is say to them, 'hey we’re the ones that are responsible for our record, we’re responsible and held accountable to our actions.'
"Now it’s time for us to make a statement. We’ve put some work in, and usually what happens when people go into slumps, it’s usually hard work that takes them out of it.”
- James Reimer gets the start against the 'Canes, and he's got terrific career numbers against them. (For what that's worth.)
- Carlyle said three injured Leafs in Clarke MacArthur, Matt Frattin and Mike Brown are all able to play, which means a dramatically reshuffled lineup from what we saw over the weekend. Nazem Kadri and Ryan Hamilton have already been returned to the minors.
- These teams are tied in the standings with 75 points, and if either one loses in regulation, they will be mathematically eliminated. That's about the only drama left to play out here in Toronto.