Nothing is ever etched in stone on Randy Carlyle’s teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs coach changes his lines early and often.
After Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Carlyle talked about making changes for Saturday’s Game 2.
If Friday’s practice lines were any indication, there will be some shuffling of forwards, but Carlyle wouldn’t commit to anything after the workout at Walter Brown Arena. Things could change again at Saturday’s morning skate and yet again when Game 2 starts.
One distinct possibility on defense would be 22-year-old Jake Gardiner in for Michael Kostka, who suffered a fractured index finger in Game 1.
“We’re going to make decisions based upon, as we always do, who’s going to give us the best chance for success,’’ said Carlyle. “We’ll have some changes, as I said [Thursday].’’
Carlyle is considering Gardiner because of his puck-moving skills and skating.
“That’s one of his assets,’’ said Carlyle. “Obviously, one of his strengths is his skating ability and he can skate the puck out. We’re going to look for that out of all of our defensemen.’’
Carlyle also wants to see more intensity.
“The tenacity on the defensive side of it has to be noticeable, much more noticeable than it was before,’’ said the coach. “[Gardiner’s] worked extremely hard at that. We’ve talked to him, and in practice, he’s been a great young man as far as his work ethic, and he’s going to try to do his best.
“That’s all we’re going to ask him to do. We’re not going to ask him to do anything more than what his skill set allows him to do. He’s a special young player in his skating ability and [ability] to move the puck. That’s what he’s got to come and do.’’
If he gets the chance, said Gardiner, he will make the most of it.
“Hopefully that’s what happens, but it’s Coach’s decision,’’ he said. “I’m just going to practice hard like I have been.’’
Gardiner has been on the sideline for a while. He last played April 18 against the Islanders.
“Our team has had some success,’’ he said. “When I’m called upon, I’ll play to my abilities. You never want to sit out, but when the team’s winning, it’s hard to argue that.’’
Having said that, he is eager to suit up.
“I want to be a big part of the team and help out the way I can,’’ he said. “I think I can help with the offensive side of things and be solid defensively.’’
Gardiner said he and the rest of the team understand the challenges the Bruins present, and he believes the Leafs will do a better job in Game 2. He expects everyone will have to pay the price.
“They’re a tough team to play against and they’ve got some big players and I’m going to have to be pretty physical,’’ said Gardiner. “We’ve played against them a lot this year, so we kind of know their style.
“It’s nice to watch a playoff game because everyone steps up their game. It’s a whole other level.’’
Keep it moving
The Maple Leafs went through a spirited workout for about an hour, and aim to bring that same energy into Game 2 — without the plethora of turnovers they had in Game 1. “I think when you do the review, that the mistakes we made, some were self-inflicted and some were because opposition put pressure on us in situations and we didn’t handle the pressure very well,’’ said Carlyle. “What we’ve tried to do is up the tempo of moving the puck. When there’s a man ahead of you, move it to him. Obviously, they have a scheme in neutral ice that wants to prevent us from skating through there and we have to do a better job of puck management in our own zone and through neutral ice.’’ . . . There was a lot of inexperience on the ice Wednesday, with nine Maple Leafs competing in their first NHL playoff game. “It’s a little bit more raucous, it’s a little bit more physical, and a lot more noise,’’ said Carlyle. “Other than that, it’s still a game played on an ice surface.’’
Carlyle would like to see 22-year-old forward Nazem Kadri simplify his game a bit, which includes moving his feet more. “It just hasn’t been displayed over the last game,’’ Carlyle said of Kadri, the third-year player who was second on the Leafs in goals (18) and points (44). “It’s been something that has been happening here for a little bit longer than that. We’ve addressed it and we’ll continue to address it. We know what kind of player he is. We know when he moves his feet, he can create things. But when he’s standing still, he’s not really any different than any other player. I don’t think there is a player in the league that can do things standing still on an ice surface when everyone else is skating, so it’s pretty simple.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.