Character Art Exchange

But Brady was outplayed by Peyton

TORONTO – Randy Carlyle quietly called out his top line on Saturday morning and hardly anyone noticed. [url=]Chipper Jones Braves Jersey[/url] . “We need our big guys to get going,” he said. “We have to have those guys going.” But unlike last season, this year’s version of the Maple Leafs hasn’t been solely dependent on Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk for offence and thus, success. They’ve gotten by just fine through the top unit’s dry spells, finding unlikely offence from sources like Leo Komarov, Mike Santorelli, David Clarkson and even the recently benched, Richard Panik. The Leafs had 10 different goal-scorers during the last four games alone, including five sources in a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. “That’s huge,” van Riemsdyk said afterward. “You see all the teams that have success in the playoffs and make the playoffs, they’re teams that get contributions up and down their lineup. From lines one through four, we’ve got guys putting the puck in the net and that’s huge.” Simply put, a deeper and more balanced lineup has predictably been only a positive for the group in Toronto. They are currently the third-highest scoring team in hockey despite missing Joffrey Lupul for 12 games – he finished third on the team with 22 goals last season – and receiving less production from Nazem Kadri, who also had 20 goals and 50 points a year ago. In fact, the club has 13 players on pace for double-digit goal totals – 13 with at least three goals through 23 games – a dramatic reversal from last season when the club was mostly top line or bust with only seven players reaching double-figures all season. That group struggled mightily to score consistently when Kessel and company didn’t produce, especially down the stretch of another failed playoff drive. The Leafs are a deeper team this year, however, having dismissed scantly productive players like Jay McClement, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren in favour of more skillful types like Santorelli, Panik and Peter Holland. Komarov and Santorelli have been the two biggest unexpected sources of offence. The two have teamed together all season, combining for seven goals and 29 points. “I don’t think you could say that Komarov and Santorelli were going to be our two checking wingers, but they were put together in that type of a role and they started to flourish offensively and that’s what the team needs,” Carlyle said. “You need a contribution from everybody.” Komarov, who left Saturday’s game after a hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin (more on that below), is easily the largest surprise. He mustered only four goals and nine points during his first NHL trial in 2013, busting through those marks in very short order this season. He sits second behind only Kessel with 13 even-strength points this season. Shooting better than 18 per cent, Clarkson too has come through with some offence, smashing last year’s paltry mark with seven goals already this season. Beyond the forwards is a defensive contingent that’s producing at an increased pace. Adding a goal each from Cody Franson and Morgan Rielly versus Washington, the Toronto blue line is now on pace for 43 goals and 185 points after totaling 35 and 159 last season. “Our team’s better when everyone’s going,” Bozak said after scoring twice, his 11 goals matching Kessel for the team lead. “There’s lots of nights where we don’t play very well and guys step up and score big goals and then there’s nights where we do play well. There’s always a line or two lines that step up at the right time.” Five Points 1. Top Line Beyond Bozak, who had scored in each of the previous two games, Carlyle wasn’t pleased with the performance of his top unit coming into Saturday’s game and he made sure to point it out before the game. “I just think they have to work as three guys,” he said Friday. “There’s got to be more support on the puck; [they’ve] got to be harder to play against; [they] can’t be one and out and [they need to] play with structure in the neutral ice – they’ll get a lot more pucks back [that way].” Kessel came into the night with only a single assist in the previous four games (and no goals), but he notched two alone on Saturday, including a deft find to Bozak on Toronto’s fifth goal. Van Riemsdyk came in point-less in three of the previous four, but he, too, dished off a pair of helpers, including the set-up on Bozak’s first of the game. “We know if we pick it up as a line that just adds a little more to our team,” said Kessel beforehand. Part of their recent struggles were directly tied to a power play that had just one goal in the previous six games. The Leafs scored three though with the man advantage on this night. “It was nice to see that our power play finally came to life and created some offence in the hockey game for us,” Carlyle said. 2. Bozak on the Power Play On pace for the best season of his NHL career, Bozak is up to 11 goals this year. The 28-year-old has scored six of those on the power play – tied for second-most in the NHL – quietly operating in the middle of the ice on Torontos first unit. He tapped in his second of the game from there on a pass from Kessel. “I just try to find soft spots in the middle of the ice,” he said. “Obviously when you’ve got guys out there like James, Phil, Naz, and Dion, a lot of attention is going to be on them, so I just try and slip under the radar and get to spots where guys aren’t.” “We’ve got so much familiarity with each other,” added van Riemsdyk. “We know where to go when the puck is in certain positions and it’s almost like second nature. It’s a bang-bang play. He made a great read, Phil made a great pass and that’s what we get when we spread the puck around.” Bozak leads the Leafs with nine power-play points. 3. Home-Ice Advantage? Saturday marked the first of five straight at the ACC for the Leafs, who now own an 8-6-0 record in Toronto this season. “We always want to make sure that our home record is one that gives us an opportunity to take a run at making the playoffs,” Carlyle said before the game. “Home-ice advantage is something we haven’t really developed yet. We’ve played better here as of lately, but we’re striving for excellence as everybody does at home.” But what advantage, if any, can a team gain from playing at home in hockey? In baseball and football, the benefits are obvious given the different dimensions and conditions of various fields, but how in hockey does a team ascertain added value when the rink is (more or less) the same across the league? Trevor Smith says it comes down to routine. “You sleep in your own bed,” he said. “You’re at home, you’re in your home city. You know what you’re going to get for your pre-game meal, all the preparation [beforehand] you know exactly what’s about to happen. You’re prepared mentally that way being at home, knowing what time to get to the rink. You’re in your home dressing room, it’s easy.” That routine, Smith says, changes only slightly on the road, but enough to force changes in habit. The morning skate, for example, is an hour later – 11:30am – on the road meaning the pre-game meal is just a tad later. And then there’s the matter of the bus. Because each hotel is a different distance to the rink – some are just across the street, some are as far as 30 minutes away – departure times can be just a tad different; as early as 4:15 p.m. and as late as 4:45 p.m. These sound like small matters, and they are, but they nonetheless require those all-important routines to stray slightly. “Routine during the season is huge,” Smith says. “Sometimes I feel like the first month of the summer, I’m lost. You don’t know what to do.” “You feel comfortable,” Carlyle added of the benefit of playing at home. “You’ve got the enthusiasm in the building. You feel comfortable in your own building. You feel that you’re never out of it in your own building. You’re always pushing the pace in your building. Your fans are your sixth player on the ice.” 4. Complete Game It was a conversation between two former London Knights early this season. Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan told Nazem Kadri that he wanted the 24-year-old to evolve into a more complete player and not just a “one-dimensional player”. “That’s something he wants me to do and that’s something I want for myself [and] I’ve wanted all along,” said Kadri, who noted Shanahan’s appreciation for his style of play. “I know my offence is going to be there. I know those goals are going to come, those assists are going to come, but it’s a matter of putting everything else together and still playing the right way when you’re not getting the greatest puck luck.” Kadri played his 200th-NHL game Saturday against the Capitals, setting up Clarkson on the Leafs fourth goal. Only recently turned 24, he’s taken incremental steps toward becoming a more complete player in what is only his third full NHL season. Amongst the worst in the league last season, he’s improved in the face-off circle – though he struggled badly on Saturday – and is making an effort toward becoming a more effective player in the defensive zone. “By all means, do I not have it figured out right now,” he said. “I’ve still got lots of learning to do and I’m doing the best I can every single day, whether it’s watching film or just practicing out there. It’s something that’s going to take some time, but for sure I feel like I’ve been way better in my own end, my face-offs have been a lot better. I think along with all that comes more ice-time, comes more responsibility, so all that stuff I’m just trying to earn.” 5. Fourth Forward Kadri was back on Toronto’s power-play unit against Washington after being removed just a few nights earlier in Pittsburgh. But rather than occupy his customary spot on the second unit, the Leafs opted to employ him on the point of the first grouping. That put him on the ice with Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Dion Phaneuf. “The mindset with this is that we have possibly our top five offensive players on the ice,” said Carlyle. It’s an idea hatched by Steve Spott, who runs the Leafs power play and has used the four-forward look in the past while steering both the Marlies and Kitchener Rangers. The approach is designed to put a threat on both sides of the ice – Kessel on the left half-wall, Kadri on the right point. Kadri hadn’t played the point on the man advantage since his days with the Knights in junior and it showed early against the Capitals. His pass attempt to Phaneuf was nearly picked off on his very first power-play opportunity. Later, he stumbled and nearly toppled over, but generally Carlyle seemed to like the look – though he strayed from it in the final period. “What it did is we worked both sides of the ice with him [out there] and we spread them out,” said Carlyle. “Other than the one blip skating backwards when he almost fell down, I thought he did okay.” The Leaf power play, which was 1-23 in the previous six games, finished 3-4 against Washington. Injury Update Unsuspecting in the offensive zone, Komarov was clipped by the right elbow of Ovechkin in the third frame. “I thought it was kind of ‘Oops, I hit you on purpose,” said Carlyle of the hit. Komarov remained on the bench briefly before exiting for the dressing room. The 27-year-old didn’t “feel good” after the hit, but had improved after the game and underwent league protocol consistent with concussions. There was no further update on his status afterward. Stats-Pack 9-0-0 – Leafs record when scoring first. 13 – Number of Leafs with at least three goals. 6 – Power-play goals for Tyler Bozak, tied for second in the NHL. 3.30 – Goals per game for Toronto, third-best in the league. Special Teams Capsule PP: 3-4 Season: 21.2% PK: 2-3 Season: 83.5% Quote of the Night “Maybe we should go buy the [Lotto] 649 tonight and get 23, 23, 23, because it’s worth $25 million. I won’t be here Monday, then.” -Randy Carlyle, on the odd series of 23’s on a night where Pat Quinn, who wore 23 as a Leaf, was recognized in a pre-game ceremony. Cody Franson scored with 23 seconds left in the first. Tyler Bozak scored 23 seconds into the second. David Clarkson scored 23 seconds after Washington scored their first goal. And the Leafs, well, they finished with 23 shots on goal. Up Next The Leafs host Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. [url=]Jamie Garcia Jersey[/url] . Goergl, the 2011 world champion, started 28th after the other top contenders had already gone down but had the fastest time at each interval. Goergl finished the demanding 3-kilometre Kaelberloch course in 1 minute, 47. [url=]Dansby Swanson Jersey[/url] . Tortorella told The Vancouver Province hell be cheering for Team Sweden to win gold when they take on the defending Olympic champions on Sunday morning. "I hope Sweden wins, cause I dont think Hammer (Dan Hamhuis) is going to play, judging by whats happened. [url=][/url] . -- Without Carey Price, the run for a first Stanley Cup in 21 years got steeper and longer for the Montreal Canadiens. FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In packed stadiums, Tom Brady had one of his worst statistical seasons. Behind the scenes, hes working hard to have a better one. And, more importantly, carry the New England Patriots further -- to the Super Bowl -- than they went last season. Brady has heard coach Bill Belichick stress throughout their 14 full seasons together "that whatever matters to you as an individual, its far distant from what the team goals are," the quarterback said Monday. Achieving those goals is a year-round pursuit with intense off-season preparation setting the stage for the regular season. "What youre trying to establish this time of year is what kind of team youre going to be," Brady said during the Patriots third week of organized team activities. "Whos willing to put it all on the line when theres really no glory in this. Theres no glory in an OTA practice. Theres no glory in the weight room or out there on the conditioning field, but itll show up at some point. "Its a long season, so, at some point, the mental toughness, the discipline of the team always shows up and those are the things that were trying to work on." Last season, Brady was 17th in the NFL in passer rating, 21st in completion percentage, 22nd in average gain per pass attempt and 11th in touchdown passes. Of course, Wes Welker left before the season for the Denver Broncos, Aaron Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder last summer and Rob Gronkowski was limited by injury to seven games. The Patriots leading returning receiver was Julian Edelman, and he had just 21 catches in 2012. He followed that with 105 receptions in a breakout season, but the rest of the receiving group suffered from injuries and inexperience. The only significant addition to the group is Brandon LaFell, who had a career-high 49 catches in his fourth NFL seaason last year with Carolina. [url=]Deion Sanders Jersey[/url]. . "Theres always ways to find improvement," Brady said after posing for photos with winners of the 2014 Myra Kraft Community MVP awards in honour of team owner Robert Krafts late wife. "Youre always working with lots of other guys. So its not necessarily just my improvement, but how my improvement relates to the rest of the team. And we all change from year to year." Receivers Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are entering their second season with the Patriots. Brady is starting his 15th and wants to play as long as possible. "The thing that Ive learned over the years is youve got to pay the price in advance," he said. "You just cant run out on the field and expect things to be better without putting the time in and extra effort. I try to be really consistent and dependable for our guys, and I think thats what the quarterback position needs to be." The Patriots won their fifth straight AFC East title last season and 10th in the past 11. But Brady was outplayed by Peyton Manning in the AFC championship game. Denver won 26-16 as the Patriots made it nine straight seasons without a Super Bowl title. The off-season intensity increases next week with a three-day minicamp followed by training camp next month. For Brady, theres no time to waste. "I dont think theres any time that we come out of a meeting thinking, Man, were great. Weve got everything figured out. Its really a time of year where youre going to make a lot of mistakes," he said. "Youre going to give great effort and youre going to fail and then youve got to gain trust in each other and become more consistent." Then, after speaking with reporters for nearly 10 minutes, Brady was eager to return to work. "Back to practice," he said with a big smile. 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