He wasn’t revealing much about his lineup, but Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle didn’t exactly beat around the bush when it came to evaluating his team on Saturday morning.
The message? They need to be better, much better, than in Game 1 if they’re to have any chance of beating the Boston Bruins in the rematch that night.
“I’m pretty sure we will be better than the other night,” Carlyle said, “because I don’t think we had too much further down to go.
“I think we’ve talked enough about the last game. We’re onto the next one.”
Indeed, having these two days off between games has been both a blessing and a curse for Toronto, as while the extra practice time over at Boston University’s campus was needed, there’s also been a lot of media focus on just how poorly they played to start their first-round series.
On Saturday afternoon, more light was shed on part of the reason the Leafs fell apart in what was the first playoff game for half the roster on Wednesday, with defenceman Mike Kostka explaining how he was playing in considerable pain after a shot broke his finger early in the second period.
Kostka stayed in the game only because fellow blueliner Cody Franson took a Zdeno Chara slap shot off the foot around the same time and was only able to play a few more shifts the rest of the night.
At that point, Toronto was still down only 2-1, but the injuries meant every pairing was shaken up considerably, with someone like Mark Fraser playing 24 minutes between three different partners.
Add in what many Leafs players admit were nerves in their first taste of the playoffs against a very veteran Bruins team, and it was a recipe for disaster.
Kostka, meanwhile, was on for all four goals against.
“The rest of the game, I couldn’t shoot,” said Kostka, who is wearing a splint on his right hand that keeps the broken index finger straight. “You try to do [your best]. Franson went down, too, so we didn’t have anyone else. I couldn’t really put us down to four defencemen at that point so I just battled through it.
“I had a shot in the third where I kind of flicked it at the net, and it bounced its way there. A few buddies texted me after and they were like ‘nice shot, man.’ That was the best I had.”
It’s not known how long Kostka will be out of the lineup, but Carlyle had big changes in store for this group anyway.
While he didn’t expressly say who would be in and out on Saturday morning, it’s believed that Jake Gardiner, Ryan O’Byrne and Matt Frattin will all draw in, with Kostka, John-Michael Liles and Frazer McLaren the top candidates to come out.
Rather than relying on the newcomers, however, the Leafs really need more production from their top guns, as other than James van Riemsdyk, few generated much of anything in Game 1.
“I think nerves played a big part of it,” Nazem Kadri said. “Now that we’re all adjusted and set up, you’ll see a better effort from us tonight.
“That’s what the playoffs are all about – adjusting to your opponent and trying to do things differently… We understand the experience and the depth they have, but we definitely have to come out [hard] and hopefully if we play our game, we’ll get the win.”
The only other lineup news of note is that backup goalie Ben Scrivens is back with the team after flying to his grandfather’s funeral in Edmonton during the two-day break.
The Leafs are still carrying three goaltenders, however, with Drew MacIntyre taking part in Saturday’s morning skate. The Toronto Marlies currently have a break in their schedule while they wait for their second round opponent, meaning MacIntyre will simply just return to Toronto with the Leafs after Game 2.
Leafs lineup (final)
JVR – Bozak – Kessel
Lupul – Kadri – Kulemin
Frattin – Grabovski – Komarov
Hamilton – McClement – Orr
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Gardiner – O’Byrne
Fraser – Franson
Scratches: Liles, MacArthur, Colborne, Kostka, McLarenReport Typo/Error