BostonBruins.com – The Maple Leafs did not hold a pre-game skate this morning, but they did hold media availability at their Boston hotel. Toronto Head Coach Randy Carlyle still has his troops ready for battle, though.
“Got to win a game, that's all it is,” said Carlyle, who is 1-1 in his career in seventh games. “If we're going to continue, we've got to win a hockey game. That's what our focus is going to be; our focus has to be on our start, to establish our skating game, our forechecking game. A workman-like attitude has to be at the front.
“If we can be first on the puck, first on the face-off, first body check, first power play – try to have a night of firsts.”
“We've touched base with our players already,” added the Leafs coach. “We'll continue to talk to them. Our pre-game routine will stay the same. Our meetings are completed as far as our special teams meetings. We'll meet again somewhere around 5:15 and do our pre-scout on Boston; then, it's let them go and do their thing.”
Carlyle said the emotional roller coaster of a Game 7 can be tough, but that the team must build on prior experiences, as little as they might have, to get them through it. The Leafs have played in a combined nine Game 7’s (Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf, and James van Riemsdyk all have played in a team-high two seventh games), compared to the Bruins who have taken part in a combined 107.
“You just have to stay even-keeled, try to be level-headed,” said Carlyle, who led the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup in 2007. “It's difficult, but there's nothing better in sports; when you're able to put yourself in this situation where you're competing and everything is on the line to win a game.
“We've been there before and we're going to call on our experiences and try to stay level and provide the leadership and coaching that has been part of our group's staple since day one. We've tried to create a template and we're going to try to live by it.”
The Leafs tonight must channel their energy into playing that structured hockey and not let the excitement and nervousness take over too much.
“You’re going to have to be revved up to go, but at the same time, you want to use it all the right way and not start running around out there,” said Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who was a member of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers team that came back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Bruins in seven games.
“We have to be disciplined, there’s a fine line. We’ll be ready for that.”
Neither Carlyle, nor his players were interested in talking about which team is operating under the most pressure tonight. To them, the pressure for each team is all the same.
“I think both teams have pressure,” said Carlyle. “When you play a Game 7, there's no real pressure on one team or the other.”
“I don’t know if I buy too much into the pressure,” added van Riemsdyk. “Both teams want to win the game. We’re both in the playoffs, we both want to move forward, we’re both going to be playing desperate hockey.
“We’re playing against a strong game over there, we know it’s going to be a hard-fought game.”