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Gardiner has ‘elevated his game,’ says Carlyle

May 10, 2013, 2:48 PM EDT

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While one Maple Leafs defenseman is getting raked over the coals, another is basking in the praise of a head coach who hasn’t exactly sung his blessings all year.

Jake Gardiner — a healthy scratch for Game 1 of the Toronto-Boston series — played 27:45 in Game 4’s overtime loss to the Bruins, and according to Toronto coach Randy Carlyle, played very well.

“I think Jake is moving better than at any time he’s moved this year,” Carlyle said, per the Globe and Mail. “I think his competitiveness on the defensive side of the puck has gone up dramatically from where he was at Christmas when he came back.

“Obviously, we didn’t feel we were getting that from him or he would have been in our lineup. He’s elevated his game here in the playoffs – he has an element that every team would like.”

Gardiner is only 22 years old. Drafted 17th overall in 2008 by the Ducks, he was acquired from Anaheim in 2011, along with forward Joffrey Lupul, for defenseman Francois Beauchemin.

Related: Jake Gardiner’s agent thinks Maple Leafs should #FreeJakeGardiner

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