Carlyle finds positives in Leafs’ fourth straight loss

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Even considering his occasional joviality in front of HBO’s cameras for their 24/7 documentary series, few would call Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle a beacon of optimism. Still, he seemed pretty positive after the team fell to the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Friday, dropping their fourth game in a row.

“This might be one of the better games we’ve played in a month,” Carlyle said, according to TSN’s Jonas Siegel.

“We’ve been begging, pleading, kicking, kissing, whatever we can do to try and find a way that we can play with some confidence.”

For those who’ve been critiquing the Leafs’ underlying stats for months now, one might quip that Carlyle should add “shooting more than our opponents” to that previous quote. To be fair, they almost did so on Friday, as the Capitals only managed a 35-34 shot advantage.

Dion Phaneuf backed up his coach’s positive outlook to Siegel.

“I think we played harder. We competed more,” Phaneuf said. “No one likes to be embarrassed the way that we were.”

Ultimately, admittedly nervous Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth was up to the task, as he won in his first start since Nov. 22. He didn’t deny his excitement after the game, either.

Whatever way you spin it, the Buds find themselves just a hair above .500 (21-20-5) while the Capitals improved to 22-16-6. Moral victories might be better than nothing, but the Leafs need to generate standings instead of style points soon or things might get ugly in Toronto.