Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, one of the NHL’s best strategists, has a simple but daunting task heading into Game 3 of the first-round series against the Boston Bruins.
Quite simply, can Carlyle reproduce on Monday the line-changing and matchup strategies he deployed to winning effect in Game 2 on Saturday night?
The odds are certainly in Carlyle’s favour; the Leafs have home-ice advantage, which means he has the last say on line changes and player matchups.
But Carlyle isn’t revealing his game plan in advance, or even shedding much light on it.
“It’s different (on home ice) but once again, you are trying as always to have people on the ice you feel match up well against the opposition,” Carlyle said as the Leafs staged an optional practice Sunday morning.
“The one thing you can’t do is get caught in a trap of not having the players you want on the ice, but that can happen at times.”
After Saturday’s masterpiece of player manipulation, Carlyle isn’t likely to get caught on the wrong side of many matchups as the series progresses.
His plan Saturday was multi-layered; for the most part, he kept Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul together, with Phil Kessel bouncing on and off that line. Kessel played most of his minutes with Nazem Kadri, taking advantage of the chemistry the two showed down the stretch. Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton, one of four new players in the lineup for Game 2, was the other constant on Kadri’s line.
Kessel, as a result, saw four-plus minutes of ice time free of Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara. He scored his first even-strength goal against Boston in four years. Prior to that, he’d managed just three goals against his old team — all on the power play — and with a steady diet of Chara smothering him, he was a minus-22 overall.