Leafs try to stay positive

The day after a punishing playoff game that featured 99 hits,
burly Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Fraser was feeling it.

Not that he was complaining. Still it had to hurt a little more,
given that Boston won Monday night’s game 5-2 to regain the upper
hand in the series. The Bruins lead 2-1 going into Game 4 Wednesday
night.

Despite the pain, the 26-year-old Fraser was in a good mood at
Tuesday’s skate.

”Sometimes you might feel a bump or a bruise and you’re not
even sure how you got it,” the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder said after
practice.

After a night when Boston outhit Toronto 51-49, Fraser was asked
if he leapt out of bed Tuesday to head to the rink.

”Actually, today I did,” he said with a grin. ”A big part of
that has been the significant change of the weather, the
sunshine.”

For Toronto coach Randy Carlyle, the summer-like day was a
welcome reminder to his players that all is not lost, despite a
second defeat in three games in their first playoff experience
since 2004.

”I used to say everybody’s in doom and gloom, but the sun did
come up today,” the coach said. ”It was sunny out there.

”That would be the way we’d want to flush things and turn the
page on it. Today’s a new day. Let’s start. Let’s build. Let’s
focus. All those things are things that we try to provide.”

Carlyle and his coaching staff got a helping hand Tuesday when
the clocks in the dressing room malfunctioned. They were six
minutes off, meaning a group of Leafs arrived on the ice late for
practice. They were greeted with some good-natured derision from
teammates who made it on time.

”You can’t change what happened and that can’t really be your
focus on what today brought,” Carlyle said. ”Today was about
flushing what happened last night, recognizing what happened and
then going into the preparation mode of tomorrow.

”Our focus has to be on what we can improve on for tomorrow
night’s game. Can we improve on our turnovers? Can we improve on
the out-and-out turnovers that led to their goals? Can we improve
on our execution with the puck?

”Those are all the little things that we have to focus on and
that’s part of the process versus the result. Any mental coach will
tell you that you can’t labor on the result being the ultimate.
It’s the process that you have to live in your mind that helps you
get ready for it.”

Carlyle has managed to keep his team poised off the ice in the
midst of a playoff-starved, hockey-mad city. On the ice, he is
bidding to mold a squad woefully short on playoff experience – and
one facing a playoff-savvy Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup two
years ago.

In the wake of a loss in which the Leafs were punished for
mistakes, Carlyle looked to the positives as he tried to rebuild
his team’s confidence.

”What did we do well? That’s what we’re trying to pick out,”
Carlyle said. ”We’re trying to focus on the things that we did
well that gave us a chance in the hockey game.”

Carlyle’s morning message to his squad was repeated by his
players later in the day.

”For the most part we played a pretty good game,” said winger
Joffrey Lupul, an influential voice in the locker room. ”We
created a lot of chances. We definitely worked hard.

”We’ve just got to eliminate some of those mistakes.”

That includes losing faceoffs; Carlyle even wondered why his
centers kept getting thrown out of the faceoff circles Monday
night.

Boston coach Claude Julien, whose team excels at faceoffs, knew
exactly what Carlyle was doing.

”When you lobby for something, it’s because you’re looking for
a bit of a break next game,” he said. ”And that’s what Randy is
doing right now.

”It’s going to be interesting to see whether the referees and
the linesmen just do their job next game and not worry about who’s
crying wolf.”

Boston’s Patrice Bergeron led the league in faceoff wins during
the regular season, 62.1 percent. David Krejci ranked 15th.

One person Carlyle doesn’t have to convince of the Leafs’
abilities as a team is Julien.

”We know that we’re in for a dogfight and the next game’s going
to be a challenge,” Julien said. ”They know they can play with us
and they’ve proven it.”