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TORONTO – Though they had won almost without exception over a span of three weeks, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle wanted his team to know that their recent path to success was unsustainable. He challenged them to respond the right way and they did just that on a live Saturday night at the ACC. Toronto won for the eighth time in 10 games, capturing the season series with Detroit in a 4-1 win. “We want to be honest with ourselves and we want to be committed to growing our team,” Carlyle said after the victory. “You don’t grow unless you can accept that you do have faults and we all do, and they were willing to work on them to make them better.” The Leafs barely touched the puck at Joe Louis Arena three nights earlier, surrendering 42 shots while managing a paltry 30 per cent possession in a game they stole on the shoulders of James Reimer in the shootout. Steering further and further from “playing the right way” the club had allowed 37 shots on average in the previous six games, relying hard on terrific goaltending and a potent offence. It was a recipe they rode to failure last season and one that offered reason for concern ahead of the home showdown with the Wings – who played at home against Florida a night earlier. Veering back to structure with a cleaner brand of hockey on Saturday, the Leafs limited the Wings to just 28 shots, dominating possession for much of the evening. “We wanted to get [them] under 25 [shots], but 28 is much better than 40-something,” said Stephane Robidas. “I don’t have the numbers, but I think we spent more time in their zone than they spent in our zone so that’s very positive.” Imperative to that success, according to Robidas and other Leaf players afterward, was a more structured neutral zone – they made a couple tweaks ahead of game-time – one that limited easy entry into the offensive zone for Detroit and forced them to either dump the puck or turn it over. The Leafs also attacked the Wings defence with more vigour and established quite a bit more offensive zone time, doing little of either just a few nights earlier. “We knew that we had to clean it up a little bit and just play stronger,” said Morgan Rielly, who scored the third Leaf goal, his fourth of the year. Rielly was one of four Toronto goal-scorers, a year-long theme of offensive depth only continuing on this night. James van Riemsdyk, Richard Panik and Nazem Kadri also tallied goals in the victory. In question now is whether the Leafs can continue to play to such a brand on a consistent basis. It’s there from time to time but rarely with consistency. What’s changed with this group from years past, however, is the willingness to at least accept that basic fact. The turning point was that momentous 9-2 home beating by Nashville in mid-November. A group that was so stubborn in its misguided ways previously finally had to accept that something different was required. “That’s changed our group since then,” Carlyle said. The Leafs are 8-1-1 since that point, outscoring the opposition 41-22 in that span while taking full advantage of a comfy home-laden schedule. “I thought tonight was one of our best games of the year,” Jonathan Bernier said after the latest victory. Five Points 1. Impactful Night For a guy who played less than nine minutes Richard Panik sure made an impression. The 23-year-old set a new career-high with a highlight-worthy goal, dished out four hits and capped the evening with his first career NHL fight, tussling with Brendan Smith in the latter stages of victory. The benefactor of a smooth look up ice by Korbinian Holzer, Panik burst in alone on Wings goalie, Petr Mrazek in the middle period, faking him out with a nifty dangle that squirted between the pads. “It’s amazing the stuff he can do,” Robidas said, noting his observation of that skill-set daily after practice. “To pull that off the way he did in a game it’s a nice goal.” Panik eclipsed his previous career-high with the goal, now with six markers in 26 games. That’s two fewer than David Clarkson, who has garnered more than 200 additional minutes, including a whole bunch on the team’s second power-play unit. Claimed off of waivers from Tampa, Panik is averaging less than nine minutes per game. “That’s the great thing about guys like Richard,” Carlyle said, “you know that there is more there…he’s a dangerous player to play in the situation he’s playing.” 2. Back-to-Backs The Leafs played the first half of their seventh back-to-back, tied for the second-most in the league with 18 this season. “If you check the record in the league of the second half of back-to-backs you’ll be surprised at the success of the team that’s played the night before,” Carlyle said Saturday morning, referring to the Wings, who were playing their second in as many nights. And while they improved to 3-3-0 in the first game of those back-to-backs, the Leafs actually do boast a far more impressive mark with shorter rest. They enter Sunday’s early game against the Kings (5 p.m. start) with a 4-1-1 mark. Carlyle prepares his team to approach the two-game sets as a six-period affair. “We’re preparing ourselves now for period four,” he said. “It’s a long intermission.” 3. Home Ice Playing their 19th game at the ACC on Saturday the Leafs are nearly halfway through their home schedule. And they’ve managed to take advantage, now boasting a 12-7-0 overall mark with seven wins in the past eight games. The road will become familiar soon enough. Following another home date with Flyers on Dec. 20th, the Leafs will play 16 of 20 games away from Toronto. 4. Upside Bet In late July the Leafs made a bet on Jake Gardiner’s upside, signing the recently turned 24-year-old for five years at a cap hit of more than $4 million annually. That upside has showed up periodically through the first two-plus months of the season, but rarely in any kind of consistent fashion. Gardiner can dazzle one shift and befuddle on the next. Cody Franson, his most frequent defence partner in Toronto, detailed precisely what Gardiner does when he’s performing at a high level. “I think when he’s playing his best hockey he’s playing with confidence,” said Franson. “You see him rolling off guys in our zone and holding onto the puck and then he makes that quick play and then he’s jumping up in the play right after that. He moves the puck quickly and jumps into plays; [that’s] when he’s at his best. Sometimes he tries to do a lot. He’s one of those guys that’s capable of doing a lot of things; he can get up and down the ice with the best of them and he handles the puck very well. But I think when he’s at his best is when he’s moving and jumping at the same time. He does a very good job of that.” The Leafs best possession player last season, Gardiner has slipped considerably in that regard this year (at least comparatively to his teammates). Leading the team in even-strength ice last season, he’s down to third this year – behind Dion Phaneuf and Roman Polak – at just under 17 minutes per game. His offensive stats line up about even. All in all, the former first round pick has not yet taken the step many in the organization hoped he would on that fateful summer day. Gardiner played 22 minutes against Detroit. 5. Hits Franson, meanwhile, is figuring things out after nearly 350 games in the league. Toronto’s coaching staff has been pleasantly surprised by the manner in which the 27-year-old has improved defensively, pairing him with Phaneuf on the top pairing basically all year-long. Key to that improvement, Franson says, is the rawer side of the game. Physicality or lack thereof was a common complaint of the 6-5 defender throughout his career previously. “That was one of the things that Randy wanted me to really improve upon was using my size and getting in people’s way and becoming tougher to play against down low – getting more hits,” Franson said. “That knock’s followed me around my whole career. People always say I play sheltered minutes, I can’t play against good players, I’m not physical, I’m slow – that stuff’s just kind of followed me around forever. And that’s stuff that I just continue to try and improve upon to prove people wrong. I take a lot of pride in proving people wrong.” Franson, who threw five hits against Detroit, ranks 10th among all NHL defenders in hits. Stats-Pack 6 – Goals for Richard Panik this season, setting a new career-high. 12-7-0 – Leafs home record this season. 41-22 – Margin by which the Leafs have outscored the opposition since Nov. 18. 7-4-1 – Leafs record vs. the Atlantic division. 8:47 – Ice-time for Panik against Detroit. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-5 Season: 20.4% PK: 1-2 Season: 83.3% Quote of the Night “You can kind of tell he’s kind of ripped.” -Morgan Rielly, noting the strength of Richard Panik. Up Next The Leafs host the Kings on Sunday night. Doug Williams Jersey . -- John Senden never imagined it would take more than seven years to win again. Dustin Hopkins Jersey .S. military base for UFC: Fight for the Troops 3. This fight card, which takes place in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, has had a number of changes, including headliner Lyoto Machida replaced by fellow Brazilian Rafael Natal. http://www.cheapredskinslockroom.com/AU ... NS-JERSEY/. After not scoring 40 points in the opening quarter in the last five seasons, the Rockets have done it five times this season and twice in the last three games. Samaje Perine Jersey . Bilbaos first victory in four rounds lifted it four points clear of Real Sociedad and kept it in command of Spains last Champions League berth for next season. In contrast, Betis was left 11 points from safety after a dismal performance that at times bordered on self-destruction amid some questionable refereeing decisions. Matthew Ioannidis Jersey . In a matchup of teams battling head-to-head for the final playoff spot in Major League Soccers Western Conference, the Whitecaps run to the post-season took a hard hit when FC Dallas blew open a tie game with two goals in the final minutes for a 3-1 victory Saturday night.PITTSBURGH -- Nobody plays more one-run games than the Pittsburgh Pirates. No wonder they are starting to look so comfortable when things get tight. Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Pirates to a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night. Pittsburgh improved to 23-17 in one-run games this season, including 16-8 at home. "We feel like were never out of anything, especially in this ballpark," Mercer said. "We just kind of feed off each other and string together some good at bats, and good things happen." Walker led off the inning with a single against Colorados Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-centre. "Hes capable of driving in runs," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Mercer, who is batting .358 in July. "Hes getting more confidence every time he takes the field. Nights like tonight, when you can end it like that in a walk-off, just add to that." Jared Hughes (5-2) earned the win after escaping a two-on, one-out jam in the 11th by snagging a line drive from Charlie Blackmon and turning it into a double play. "I threw the pitch, it was going to where I wanted it to, and he did an excellent job of getting to it and hitting a line drive. I did not see it," Hughes said. "I feel like it just went right into my glove." Walker went 3 for 5 with two runs scored for the Pirates, who moved to within 2.5 games of first-place Milwaukee and St. Louis in the crowded NL Central. Carlos Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for the Rockies, who lost All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the fourth inning to a left thigh cramp. Tulowitzki, who leads the majors in batting average (.340) and runs (71), hit a slow roller to shortstop in the fourth against Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton and grabbed his leg while nearing first base. He walked gingerly to the dugout before being replaced by Josh Rutledge. "Nothing serious," Tulowitzki said. "Well see how I wake up (Sunday). The good news is I dont think I tore anything or did anything to where Im going to miss an extended period of time." Coloraddo starter Brett Anderson, acquired in a trade from Oakland last December following a humbling season in which he went from Opening Day starter to the bullpen, spent seven innings keeping the Pirates off balance with a dizzying array of breaking balls.dddddddddddd The left-hander allowed one run and struck out eight with just one walk, his only flub being consecutive doubles by Walker and Gaby Sanchez in the fourth that put Pittsburgh in front. He retired the last 12 batters he faced and was in position to earn his first win since April 7, 2013, when Gonzalez took a curveball from Morton in the seventh and sent it streaking into the seats above the Roberto Clemente Wall in right field. "I think I threw more pitches tonight than I did in two-plus years," Anderson said. "I feel like I battled pretty well and gave us a chance." For the second straight night, however, Colorados bullpen faltered. Pittsburgh scored three times on Friday after Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa exited to pull out a 4-2 win. The Pirates put a similar rally together 24 hours later when Anderson left after 110 pitches. Two walks and a single off Adam Ottavino with one out in the eighth loaded the bases, and Walker laced a single to right against Tommy Kahnle to score Josh Harrison and tie the game. A perfect throw from Gonzalez in right nailed Andrew McCutchen at the plate and kept it even. The wayward curveball Morton surrendered to Gonzalez marred an otherwise steady outing for the resurgent right-hander. Morton gave up two runs and five hits, striking out three and walking one, a performance that raised his ERA at PNC Park this season to 2.18. NOTES: The Pirates held LF Starling Marte out of the lineup. Marte left Friday nights win in the eighth inning as a precaution after getting hit in the head with a fastball by Ottavino. ... Colorado 1B Justin Morneau sat out his second straight game with a stiff neck. Morneau hopes to play Sunday in the series finale. Morneau played 25 games for the Pirates at the end of the 2013 season, batting .260 while helping Pittsburgh to its first playoff berth in 21 years. ... Pittsburghs Jeff Locke (2-1, 2.89 ERA) faces Colorados Tyler Matzek (1-4, 4.97) on Sunday. Cheap NFL Jerseys China Wholesale Jerseys 2019 NFL Jerseys Wholesale Wholesale Jerseys 2019 Cheap Jerseys Store Cheap Jerseys Store Cheap Jerseys 2020 ' ' '
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