After a long string of losses which ultimately cost Ron Wilson his job, the Leafs finally put in a dominating performance against the Montreal Canadiens. Hell, even Glen Healy had a tough time finding anything wrong with the Leafs' effort on Saturday.
Ink will be undoubtedly be spilt on how Carlyle lit a spark under the team, or how the team responded to the coaching change with an improved effort, and the more optimistic among us will hope that this is the spark that will propel the team into the 8th seed, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here.
The Leafs looked fantastic on Saturday. They had nearly twice as many shots as the Habs and were it not for Carey Price, the score would have been considerably more lopsided. Let's not forget though that we were playing the Canadiens.
Montreal is a bad team and they're a banged up team right now. With no Gionta, and no Moen, and Blake Geoffrion in the lineup rather than Hal Gill, this was a pretty depleted team. Injuries and substitutions notwithstanding, the Habs are also the last place team in the Eastern Conference.
Now don't get me wrong, any win against the Habs is a satisfying one. Watching our top two lines roll over the Habs defense made for a great Saturday night but let's be careful in attributing it to the Carlyle-effect or a change in attitude. Saturday's win was little more than the Leafs beating up on a horrible team.
Could it be the start of something bigger? Absolutely. The Leafs needed to dominate a game after their recent run of futility. Have the Leafs had a propensity for playing down to their opposition? Yes, they have. At the end of the day though, they did what they should have done; nothing more and nothing less.
The real litmus test for Carlyle's Leafs will be how they perform in the games ahead. The Leafs are staring at a tough string of games in the coming weeks. With Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington next up for the Buds, Carlyle will need to introduce his systems gradually but steadily throughout the next week, all while ensuring that the level of effort the Leafs exhibited against Chicago and, most recently, Montreal is maintained.
The Leafs sit three points out of eighth place with a game in hand on the current 8-seed, Winnipeg. It's not as rosy as it sounds though as the Leafs need to jump four teams in order to get there. Even with the tough schedule they're up against this week, the Leafs can ill-afford to falter.
Much like the Montreal game, however, I would urge Leaf fans not to read too much into the results of this coming week. Systems take time to implement. If the Leafs continue their struggles, we should chalk it up to tough opposition and the inevitable transitional period.
The Randy Carlyle-era wont be defined by what he did in Montreal yesterday or what he will do in the next week; Carlyle will be judged by what he's able to accomplish starting next year, after a full training camp and when the team has a little more familiarity with what he expects from them.
Unless of course he rights the ship and gets the Leafs into the playoffs; in which case, the Legend starts now.