TORONTO – The wins havent come pretty, but for Randy Carlyle and the Leafs the points count all the same. Carolina Hurricanes Shirts . “Coaches arent here to cut up wins,” said Carlyle with a lasting grin. His team rallied for a third straight victory to open the season – a perfect 3-0-0 – outlasting the Senators 5-4 in what proved a wildly entertaining and imperfect home opener at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday evening. Mason Raymond and Jonathan Bernier highlighted the good in victory, as did a team-wide rally from two goals down midway through the hockey game. Doing so in spite of a shaky start from James Reimer, some wobbly defensive play, and an increasing cast of injuries (and one key suspension) which forced the NHL debuts of three players – including 19-year-old Morgan Rielly – is surely why Carlyle was all smiles after another win, incomplete as it may have been. “We didnt play to the level were capable of playing,” he said. “But we still found a way to get two points, so well take that and move on.” The Leafs deserve full credit for scratching out three victories, especially in light of circumstances which included a back-to-back in two fiery road buildings to begin the season. But concerns have to be simmering beneath the surface of all the good, notably a defensive game at even-strength which has often appeared scrambled and sloppy in the opening three games (opponents have averaged 35 shots per game), instability and inexperience on the blue-line accentuating such trouble. Ottawa scored twice in such instances during a rocky first frame for both teams, adding two more in the second, the fourth and final goal certainly one that Reimer would like back. “Obviously we didnt play our best hockey game,” said Bernier, “but we found a way again to make it happen. Thats what good teams do.” Because of terrific special teams, solid goaltending and an incredibly potent offence, troubles in such areas last season were often overlooked, but in 2013, the Leafs finished as the fifth-worst defensive team at even-strength (tied with Tampa). They still managed an incredibly successful season, which concluded in the first playoff appearance in nine years, and have gotten off to a quick start this season, but such flaws are likely to become magnified if not addressed. “When you play as sloppy as we did tonight theres a long list [of concerns],” Carlyle concurred afterward of his teams defensive play. “Obviously weve got to play to a tighter brand of hockey and we know that. They know that. But the good thing is we played poorly, we were down two goals in our building, we found a way to claw back into the game and we won it in a shootout. Are we going to forget about this? No, were not going to forget about it. But you cant be a taskmaster every day of the week. Weve played three hockey games, weve got six points, what more do you want?” Five Points 1. Raymonds fast start Raymond opened the scoring with his second of the season, the 27-year-old capitalizing on the hard-nosed work of Troy Bodie and Dave Bolland. He would add two assists in 19 minutes, teaming with Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul on a lethal second power-play unit which scored twice against a Senators penalty kill that ranked as the NHLs best last season. “Adjusting,” he said of his transition to Toronto. “The more I get out on the ice the better I feel. Im learning. Im learning every shift. Theres things to learn in different systems, but so far so good.” A Canuck for six seasons, Raymond would cap a fine evening with the shootout winner, a spin-o-rama that beat Craig Anderson in spite of some controversy. “Its one that seems to raise some debate,” said Raymond of the move, called into question with forward progress seemingly halted. “But nonetheless, its something that has worked successful for me and if I can use it why not?” Inked to a professional tryout on the eve of training camp, the Raymond addition has proved increasingly valuable in the early going. In light of the suspension to David Clarkson and an ankle injury for Nikolai Kulemin, the Leafs depth at forward has been robbed, but with Raymonds early impact that has been minimized. 2. Reimers rocky start A careers worth of brilliance against the Senators took a hit on Saturday for James Reimer. The 25-year-old was yanked after he allowed four goals on 21 shots, the final marker from Jason Spezza squeezing through the five-hole midway through the second frame. “Some bad luck maybe,” he said of the evening, “but at the same time as a goaltender, youre the last line of defence so youve got to be there and youve got to a find a way to keep the puck out of the net.” “The rebounds and the pucks were bouncing away from James Reimer versus bouncing for him,” Carlyle said, no better example of that than the Senators third goal from Jared Cowen, a direct result of one leaky rebound from Reimer. Battling for the No. 1 job, Reimer entered the evening with an 8-1-1 career mark against Ottawa, boasting a 1.69 goals against average and .949 save percentage. But on the night of the opener he got the hook. “I know what kind of team we have in here and I knew we were going to come back so I was a little disappointed in getting pulled,” he chimed afterward. 3. A perfect night for Bernier Standing in for Reimer, Bernier stopped all 15 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, adding two more stops in the shootout. His quiet and quite effective performance in the crease Saturday mirrored his effort on Wednesday, the 25-year-old making his Leafs debut with a near-perfect 31-save night against the Flyers. “You always got to be ready for those kind of games and prepare like you play every night,” Bernier said. “I didnt think it was Reims fault, I just thought [Carlyle] wanted to change the momentum and it worked.” Early in the third with his team down a goal at 4-3, Bernier stopped a hard-charging Clarke MacArthur, the former Leaf picking off a Morgan Rielly feed and bursting in with speed at the Toronto crease. The stop proved consequential. James van Riemsdyk would score a minute later to knot the score at four. “The one thing that you notice when he went in, there wasnt a lot of extra rebounds hanging around,” Carlyle said of Bernier. “When he made the save the puck was either in his glove or he was able to freeze it. He controlled the puck which allowed us to box out. There werent so many wild scrambles around the net.” Though its far too early to gain any real window into the goaltending competition this season, Bernier has certainly grasped the initial edge. “It makes it easier,” said Carlyle simply of the impending choice in goal. “Our main focus is to win games and thats the only thing were going to focus on,” Bernier added. “Were not going to worry about whos going to play, we just got to support each other.” 4. Rielly debut Morgan Rielly logged 18 minutes in his NHL debut, partnered with Cody Franson against the Senators. “As the game went on he got better,” said Carlyle of the rookies performance. “You got to see more of what hes about.” Rielly and Franson had a challenging first period, the pair caught on the ice for goals against on back-to-back shifts, the more experienced Franson struggling to support his rookie teammate early. The 26-year-old Franson, who was among the Leafs best players in the opening two games, instigated the Senators first goal with a defensive zone giveaway, unable to tie up Cory Conacher on the marker that followed three minutes later. Perhaps tentative early, Rielly was confident as the game wore on, initiating the offence with his legs by the third frame and into overtime. “On paper its probably not the greatest game Ive ever played,” he said, “but Im pretty happy with how it went. I felt like I improved as I kept playing.” “You can see he can separate himself with his skating ability, he can read plays, he just needs to get his feet underneath him at the NHL level,” Carlyle observed. 5. A Carlyle type Of Dave Bolland, who slid onto a line with Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond shortly after the Senators fourth goal, Carlyle recalled an inkling he had previously of the Toronto natives prowess while coaching in Anaheim. Carlyle noticed that when his team played the Blackhawks, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville would select either Selke Trophy winner Jonathan Toews or Bolland to match up with his top guns Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. “The little light goes on,” he said. “You remember those things.” Bollands versatility has been a quick plus for the Leafs, his ability to move up and down the lineup with ease a definite asset. Bonus Point Though he winced in pain in the moment, Nik Kulemin didnt appear injured when a puck struck his ankle at practice on Friday. But the result was a small broken bone, one that will sideline the 27-year-old for at least the next two weeks, the initial stage of which will see him in a walking boot. Already down the suspended David Clarkson and additionally injured Frazer McLaren, the Leafs depth up front is being tested in a hurry. Spencer Abbott briefly filled the void Kulemin previously occupied alongside Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul on Saturday, the 25-year-old Hamilton native making his NHL debut against the Senators. The Leafs will miss the two-way presence Kulemin offers, especially on the penalty kill, where he teamed with Jay McClement on the first forward unit. “Were going to need other people to step up and fill those minutes,” Carlyle said, Raymond, Bolland, van Riemsdyk among the options for increased opportunity. Stat-Pack 18:07 – Ice-time for Morgan Rielly in his NHL debut. 26.7 – Percentage for the Leafs power-play through three games, including a 2-6 showing against the Senators, who owned the top-ranked penalty kill last season. 3-1-1 – Leafs record in the past five home openers. 13-22 – Proficiency for Dave Bolland in the faceoff circle. .806 – Save percentage for James Reimer. 7 – Shots for Joffrey Lupul, who scored his first of the season, adding an assist. 24:46 – Ice-time for Phil Kessel to lead all Leaf forwards. Special Teams Capsule PP: 2-6 PK: 1-1 Quote of the Night “How could they say something unkind about me?” -Randy Carlyle, asked about critical comments from former Leaf Clarke MacArthur. Up Next The Leafs get their first look at first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon when the Avalanche visit Toronto on Tuesday night. Fake Hurricanes Jerseys . TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted on Monday that Hemsky will be going to market as an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Hurricanes Jerseys 2020 . Jeter doubled high off the left-field wall and scored on Jacoby Ellsburys first hit in pinstripes in the fifth. Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) pitched 6 1-3 sharp innings in the Yankees 112th opener in New York. In what manager Joe Girardi said would be a season-long lovefest for Jeter, the shortstop was cheered every step of the way by an adoring crowd of 48, 142 -- even when his double-play grounder back to Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2) scored Solarte in the third inning for the first run.TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Times is reporting Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams was stabbed in the thigh at his home and an arrest warrant has been issued for his brother. The newspaper reported Williams was treated for a relatively minor laceration at St. Josephs Hospital and released. According to the Times, the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office issued an arrest warrant Sunday night for 23-year-old Eric Baylor on a chargge of aggravated battery/domestic violence after deputies were called to Williams home in the Avila community north of Tampa. Carolina Hurricanes Store. The Buccaneers released a statement saying team officials were aware of the situation and were working with Williams and the authorities to get additional information. Williams signed a $40 million, six-year deal with the team last year. He caught 22 passes for 216 yards last season. ' ' '
Jan 6, 2020
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