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Despite win, Maple Leafs want to keep improving

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- Good is never quite good enough in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You might think the Toronto Maple Leafs would be sitting on easy street having defeated the Boston Bruins on Saturday to even their best-of-7 opening round series 1-1, but to hear coach Randy Carlyle speak, you'd think they took a pounding.

"Our message as a coaching staff is we're going to have to be better than we were because we know the Bruins are going to be better," Carlyle said. "Our expectation is we're going to have to play the game to a higher level. There are mistakes we are making with the puck as far as turnovers are concerned that are correctable. We need to cut those mistakes down. I don't think any team can afford some of the turnovers and giveaways that we have committed and expect to continue to have success."

After losing Game 1 in Boston 4-1, the Maple Leafs made four lineup changes and came back with a solid effort. It was better, but as Carlyle explained, it was far from perfect. Goalie James Reimer, who will start Game 3 on Monday, played significantly better than he did in Game 1, but had trouble controlling rebounds.

The good news for the Maple Leafs in Game 2 is the players they count on for goals came through. Right wing Phil Kessel, who traditionally has trouble connecting against his old team, scored the game-winning goal while left wing Joffrey Lupul, who had been goal-less in the previous three games, scored twice. Neither player expects an easy night simply because it is a home game.

"It's a big game for both teams," Kessel said. "They're a great team over there and we're going to have to battle real hard to get a win."

"Boston is going to come out and play hard," Lupul added. "They're a veteran team with a good coach. They're a championship team, so they'll make some adjustments. We don't know exactly what those changes will be, but it's up to us as players to go out there and try to out-battle the guy we are up against and try to out-compete them. That is our plan."

Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf, who leads the team with an average 23:35 through the first two games, said the effort it takes to win increases with each game.

"We've got to keep improving," Phaneuf said. "We obviously played better in Game 2, but tonight is going to be a step up from that. We have talked about wanting to keep improving; to keep getting better, and while we were happy with how we played, that's in the past now. They've got a lot of experience and we respect their team. They're going to come out extremely hard, much the way we did in Game 2."

Boston coach Claude Julien said nothing about Toronto's push-back game Saturday surprised him. He added the Bruins respect the Maple Leafs physicality.

"We always have," Julien said. "I said that from the beginning and I think (the media) is starting to believe me now. I said it the last time we played a game here, how good a team they have become, and now we're in the playoffs. I guess you guys need proof and now you've got it."

Julien, like Carlyle, said he expects his team to be better than it was Saturday.

"We had a lot of breakdowns," Julien said. "When you look at the goals they scored, there were a lot of outnumbered situations that were uncharacteristic of our team when we are playing well. We feel that we're a good enough team that if we play the type of hockey we're capable of, our chances of winning are pretty good."

Speed kills: The Maple Leafs used their exceptional speed to get back into their first round series with the Bruins and Carlyle expects that to continue to be a factor as the series progresses.

"The pace of the game that is played in the playoffs is higher than the pace of a regular season game," Carlyle said. "It's one of those things that we talked about going into the playoffs; the 20 percent factor. Everything is going to be 20 percent more intense … the speed of the games would be 20 percent faster … the games would be 20 percent more physical. It would cost people 20 percent more exertion."

Here are the possible line combinations for Game 3:


Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin

Rich Peverley - Chris Kelly - Jaromir Jagr

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Adam McQuaid

Dennis Seidenberg - Johnny Boychuk

Wade Redden - Dougie Hamilton

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Nikolai Kulemin

Matt Frattin - Mikhail Grabovski - Leo Komarov

Ryan Hamilton - Jay McClement - Colton Orr

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner - Ryan O'Byrne

Mark Fraser - Cody Franson

James Reimer

Ben Scrivens

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