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07.11.2019 04:03
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TORONTO – “Play the right way.” It’s a phrase and mindset that Maple Leaf players and coaches co-opted after a pair of particularly humiliating losses last week and one that helped sparked back-to-back wins in response. But head coach, Randy Carlyle, doesn’t want to say too much about it. “We’re going to just keep that one close to our vest,” said Carlyle of the phrases meaning, always guarded when it comes to matters in-house. “They know what it means and we as a coaching staff know what it means, so we’re just going to keep that between ourselves at this point.” What’s clear is the Leafs needed to change something after they were kicked twice in a matter of days by the Sabres and Predators. But instead of pinning it down to wins and losses they decided to cut the big picture into very small pieces, aiming for little changes to affect big picture results. It started with conversations between coaches and management and filtered down from there. “…we felt we had to reset and focus on the process,” Carlyle said. “And the process for us, instead of looking at wins and losses, was to pick something within it and say ‘Hey, if we can accomplish this our chances of having success are going to go up’ and that’s really the way that it was presented.” Changes were easily evident in back-to-wins over the Lightning and Red Wings. The Leafs played a cleaner, more structured and sound game against a pair of division rivals, resulting in fewer turnovers, fewer dangerous chances to contend with and, thus, fewer shots to handle for their typically busy goaltender. “I think it’s like anything,” said Stephane Robidas, sounding a lot like a coach himself, “whenever you set long-term goals, it’s far, it’s far ahead, and it’s tougher to see the big picture. Whenever you put short-term goals, like little things you can control, it kind of makes it easier. It’s little things. It’s details.” The team came up with “process goals” before last Thursday’s game against Tampa, objectives they could focus on during the course of a game. One such goal was holding opponents to 25 shots or under, a particular challenge for one of the worst shot suppression teams in the league in recent years. And while they weren’t able to hold Tampa and Detroit at or under 25 shots, they did keep both to a very respectable 28 shots apiece. Few of those shots and subsequent opportunities came off the rush – because of wiser puck play and increased engagement from forwards defensively – a particular point of peril in those one-sided losses to Buffalo and Nashville. All of which made life for Jonathan Bernier quite a bit easier than the norm of his Toronto tenure. Fewer run-and-gun opportunities for the opposition means far more predictability for the goaltender, less danger to manage in just a matter of seconds, and more shots from those areas of the ice that aren’t quite as menacing. “Rush shots are the hardest to stop,” said Bernier, appearing relaxed after back-to-back games of fewer than 30 shots against, a harkening back to his days with the Kings. “[But] when it comes [from] the outside, you only have one shooter, you don’t have to worry about the back-side [shooter], you can challenge a little bit more and, obviously, [your] percentage to stop that puck is pretty high and most of the shots will go in your belly.” To tame the shot totals of their opponents, the Leafs have a connected “process goal” of improving back-side pressure – making certain that the high forward in the offensive zone is in proper position if the puck is turned over and play goes the other way. That not only helps the group on defence – which will be without the injured Roman Polak, likely for the next month – hold the opposition up at the blue line, but it puts Bernier in a better position to succeed. His approach changes dramatically when contending with a 3-on-2 rush as opposed to a 3-on-3 – he can play deeper in his net, for example. “When you have that back-pressure, it’s either going to be a dump or a wide shot,” said Bernier. “There’s not many options out there because, if the D and the back-pressure do a good job, then they shouldn’t get anything out of it.” That’s just another one of the minor adjustments the Leafs have made and hope to continue to stick with as the road moves forward. They started addressing such matters at a video session in the hours after last Tuesday’s 9-2 pounding from Nashville. It came down to improvements as small as increased urgency on the forecheck. “If you think about it,” said Robidas, “if you get a real good forecheck, what’s going to happen? You’re going to get the puck and you’re going to be in their end - if you’re in their end, they can’t shoot the puck on net. That’s a pretty good start.” “We talk about Detroit for years, how good they were with the puck,” the 37-year-old continued. “Yeah, they’re really good with the puck, but they didn’t have to defend that much because they had the puck the whole game. Whenever they lose it, they track it back and they get it back.” But unlike those Red Wing teams of the past couple decades, the Leafs were an awful possession club last year, worst in the league with a 42.3 per cent Fenwick rating in 5-on-5 situations. That number has improved to 47.7 per cent this year, still not great at 23rd overall, but an improvement nonetheless. More possession of the puck means less time in the defensive zone and fewer shots against, all part of the thread toward “playing the right way. Toronto is still fourth from last in yielding 33 shots per game at the quarter mark of the season, but that number will edge lower if they can somehow maintain their current form or something close to it. “That’s the way we tried to beg, borrow, steal, whatever you can do to convince your players that there is a certain way that we have to play,” said Carlyle. “We’re going to focus on trying to block shots, trying to create less defensive [and] more offensive zone time, be stronger in structure - all those things -and then, usually, the shot clock will go down if you’re doing those things effectively.” Whether or not it continues is the question. The Leafs are an unpredictable bunch and as ripe as any to veer off course when the script changes for the worse, if even a little. But after skidding so violently off the rails, Carlyle – whose job veered into questions general manager Dave Nonis had to quiet – has managed to get his group back on track (albeit, in only two games) with a simple edict and message. “You start by doing little things and, by the end, it gets tougher,” Robidas observed, “but now you’ve proved to yourself that you can do it. You’ve broken it down and you know what you need to do to keep going.” And that presumably is playing the right way. Wholesale Shoes Black Friday Free Shipping .C. - Goodyear has warned teams that increased speeds at Charlotte Motor Speedway will put a heavy emphasis on the right front tires in Saturday nights race a€” a potentially key development for drivers trying to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Cheap Shoes Black Friday ... maybe even more than that. Maybe all season I have to take a few blows. Not bad for a defenceman. The goal, that is. Although the shuffling dance steps werent bad, either. Barrie scored 55 seconds into overtime, Semyon Varlamov stopped 29 shots, and the Avalanche moved a step closer to their first playoff berth in four years with a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Wholesale Shoes Black Friday . LOUIS -- To stay a step ahead of goaltenders, T. Discount Shoes Black Friday . -- Adam Tambellini scored three times and set up one more as the Calgary Hitmen won their sixth in a row by crushing the host Lethbridge Hurricanes 8-1 on Saturday in Western Hockey League play. DENVER -- Kenneth Faried was all smiles in Denvers locker room. And with good reason. The Nuggets forward scored a career-high 34 points and added 13 rebounds to lead Denver to a 137-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. "When I got my second foul, I sat down and looked up said, Wow, I have nine (points) already. I havent really played that much. This might be a career game," Faried said. "Thats what I love to do -- have fun and play basketball. When its that exciting and that much fun you have no worries, really. You just think about winning. "Coach (Brian Shaw) wanted me to impose my will on (the Pelicans) Anthony Davis ... not shy away or back down." That wasnt an issue in the second half, when Davis sat out with back spasms. He finished with six points and three rebounds. Tyreke Evans scored 27 points to lead New Orleans. The Nuggets raced to a 40-26 lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back, making 15 of 27 3-pointers compared to 2 of 9 for New Orleans, a 39-point difference. The 137 points tied the Nuggets season scoring high. "They (Nuggets) just ran up and down the court and did what they wanted to do. They did make some unbelievable 3s, they were on fire tonight," Evans said. "We knew that at the beginning of the game Faried was going to come out aggressive and we didnt do a good job of stopping him." The Pelicans had no answers inside for Faried, who went unchecked numerous times for backdoor dunks and easy short jumpers. "I think that is how Faried should be playing," teammate Ty Lawson said. "I compare him to a little bit like Charles Barkley the way he can get the ball to the rim, make good decisions and pass it." Farieds previous career best was 32 points against the Lakers on March 7. "He is succeeding in areas he has struggled in before and so that is just making him supremely confident," Shaw said.dddddddddddd "When you have that (confidence) then the game starts to slow down for you." The Pelicans trailed 71-53 at halftime. The 71 points were the most they allowed in the first half this season. The previous high was 64 points twice. "We didnt play well to start the game. In the month of March we set a high bar for how we can play, regardless of whos on the floor," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "Since Ive been here weve never given up these type of numbers with our defence." Denver led 105-81 after three quarters and cruised to the victory from there. "Thats the toughest part for me, allowing teams to score like that," Williams said. "Thought they had way too many easy points in the paint." Reserve Aaron Brooks scored 24 points for Denver, going 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. "I just wanted to be more aggressive. Talked to coach before the game and he said he wanted at least three, so I got that quota," Brooks said. "The big guy (Davis) wasnt in there (in the second half), and once hes out its time to attack the rim. We shared the ball and had a lot of assists." The victory moved the Nuggets ahead of the Pelicans for 11th place in the Western Conference and gave them a split of the four-game season series. The Nuggets led in assists (34-21) and blocks (12-7) and committed fewer turnovers (11-16). The Pelicans held a 42-40 rebounding edge. NOTES: Nuggets F Wilson Chandler missed his sixth straight game with a left groin strain. ... Pelicans G Eric Gordon missed his seventh consecutive game with tendinitis in his left knee. ... The Nuggets tied their season high with 12 blocks. . The Nuggets 15 3-pointers tied their season high. ' ' '

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