TORONTO – 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 on 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 leaped 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.
“Our focus has to be on what we can improve on for tomorrow night’s game,” Carlyle said. 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?
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.”