Randy Carlyle

Leafs coach liked what he saw in the second period against the Bruins

There seems to be a contingent of Maple Leafs fans that get its hackles up whenever the fact is raised that Toronto gets outshot in almost every single game it plays.

This is understandable, given the Leafs are 11-6-0 and tied for second in the Eastern Conference. Hockey games are won by scoring the most goals, not by getting the most shots.

But shot totals are often a reflection of how much a team has the puck. After all, you can’t shoot the puck unless you possess it first.

Also, puck possession is something that Leafs coach Randy Carlyle has said he wants more of. So if it’s important to the coach, it’s probably worth mentioning.

Specifically, Carlyle would love his team to have the kind of possession it enjoyed during the second period of Saturday’s game in Boston when the Leafs outshot the Bruins, 18-10, and outscored them, 1-0.

“I think every coach would like their team to play that way,” Carlyle said, per the Globe and Mail. “That’s more the type of hockey that we’re going to ask the hockey club to play. A little bit more of a cycle game, a little bit more of a puck-possession game, you know, instead of the up and down, trading chances.”

Writes the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:

The analysis of the Leafs’ shots-on-goal problems has been beaten to death over the past 10 months, but the real issue in the long term is one of zone time, not simply putting meaningless rubber on goal.

By any measure, Toronto spends a disproportionate amount of time in its own end, with new statistics estimating their offensive versus defensive zone time at 41.4 per cent, the second-worst rating in the league.

At the end of the day, there’s no right way to win hockey games. The Leafs have overcome their lack of puck possession with great goaltending, good special teams, and a high shooting percentage. For the team’s fans, it must be frustrating for critics to keep saying the collapse is coming. But it’s not personal; it’s mostly just an interesting narrative, particularly for those who are interested in hockey’s so-called advanced statistics.

By the way, Toronto is in Minnesota on Wednesday to play a Wild team whose possession stats have improved dramatically this season.

The Leafs have lost two of their last three, including Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to the B’s.

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    Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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    Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

    (Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

    Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

    Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

    “He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

    Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

    Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

    Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

    It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

    Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

    Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

    Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

    Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

    Read more about Game 6 here.

    Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

    With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

    There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

    What if that offside goal counted?

    Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

    Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

    What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

    The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

    Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

    Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

    Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

    ***

    Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

    More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

    Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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    With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

    Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

    The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.