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HomeSports7 Maple Leafs Takeaways: Keefe questions staff’s conditioning

7 Maple Leafs Takeaways: Keefe questions staff’s conditioning


In the midst of one other third interval the Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn’t win, Sheldon Keefe seemed up and down his listless bench and determined a day without work would do them some good.

“I believe our group seems to be drained right here once more right this moment,” mentioned the coach, his tone rising more and more dissatisfied as this street journey wears on.

“It appeared like we hit a wall there and stopped enjoying for a great chunk of time in that third interval. No life, no vitality on our bench at a time once we wanted it. In order that, to me, is an indication of fatigue.”

Present us the NHL staff that hasn’t needed to deke by means of quarantines, accidents and herky-jerky schedule switches, and we’ll present you a authorities pandemic plan that pleases all residents.

Keefe’s crew isn’t distinctive in that the Leafs have been rolling by means of December in a groove solely to get blindsided out of rhythm by postponed dates, compelled home arrests, a fan-less house rink, and uneven competitors.

In 2022, the Leafs went from straightforward video games in opposition to depleted Ottawa and Edmonton rosters to high-tempo showdowns in opposition to Colorado and Vegas previous to shedding 2-1 to the tanking Arizona Coyotes in Wednesday’s second half of a back-to-back.

“Makes me begin to marvel about our conditioning and the place we’re at there. However clearly, we have got to seek out methods to be rising to the event on the proper occasions reasonably than falling flat,” Keefe challenged.

The coach wished his goalie, Petr Mrazek, to make yet another massive save after a 32-day layoff from recreation motion. And he wished his skaters to press more durable with two factors nonetheless up for grabs late.

So: How do these Leafs get again in control?

“Play extra video games,” Keefe mentioned. “Conditioning improves. Tempo improves. [You get] used to grinding by means of it, pushing by means of it.”

Hockey gonna hockey

What Keefe might’ve performed is solely credit score Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka for a first-star efficiency and transfer on.

That will be the popular narrative of the beastly Auston Matthews, a drive all evening.

“We actually managed the play for probably the most a part of the sport,” Matthews mentioned. “Generally you simply run right into a scorching goalie, and you bought to tip your hat to him.”

That’s the way in which Timothy Liljegren considered issues too: “Their goalie had an unbelievable evening, and it simply wasn’t our evening.”

The Leafs in all probability didn’t need to swipe three of 4 factors in Colorado and Vegas to start out the journey; they positively didn’t need to stroll out of Gila River Enviornment with zero.

Toronto outshot the Coyotes 46-18, outchanced them 48-23, and generated 5.89 anticipated targets to Arizona’s 2.07.

The Leafs kicked off the competition with 10 pictures on back-to-back energy performs however got here up empty within the first interval.

At varied stretches the TV viewer would possibly double-check the rating bug to see if Toronto was again on a power-play as a result of the puck hardly left the Yotes’ zone at 5-on-5.

The pictures have been 15-2 for the guests when Ryan Dzingel, enjoying his first recreation since Dec. 10, tipped a fluttering puck previous Mrazek and drew first blood.

“Clearly did not make good on our possibilities,” Keefe mentioned. “We generated greater than sufficient to attain excess of we did. However did not execute and discover methods to make it more durable on their goaltender as soon as he acquired in a groove.”

Matthews gonna Matthews

Toronto’s lone purpose arrived within the first minute of the third interval however on its thirty sixth shot of the evening.

Matthews sniped his patented pulled wrister top-shelf and clear previous Vejmelka, giving him targets in 9 consecutive street video games (11 complete), a Maple Leafs document.

“He continues to make it occur,” John Tavares says. “Groups clearly are game-planning for him, and his skill to lift to the problem, stay up for that problem, adapt his recreation and discover alternative ways to create alternatives.

“Not shocking, hitting a franchise document like that. When it is all mentioned and performed, he is gonna have fairly a couple of.”

Czech who’s in internet

A relative unknown, Vejmelka is a 25-year-old import whose NHL.com headshot is only a silhouette of a goalie masks.

He appeared in seven Czech professional seasons earlier than coming to this facet of the pond to expertise the Arizona rebuild.

The large rookie (six-foot-four, 224 kilos) has performed first rate hockey in relative obscurity, coming into Wednesday’s recreation with the weakest purpose assist within the league (1.56 targets per recreation assist).

The Maple Leafs have 4 gamers — Matthews, Tavares, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly — with extra factors than Arizona’s highest scorer (Clayton Keller, 26).

So, it is sensible that the Coyotes would wish to squeak out a 2-1 resolution to get Vejmelka a win.

The contact on this Tavares lob cross to Nylander…

“It is simply principally intuition within the second and doubtless simply getting a great understanding of enjoying with Willy,” Tavares explains.

“Willy’s simply acquired nice anticipation of when to take benefit and stretching the ice when the puck turns over — and he can learn that play. So, it is as much as me to attempt to discover him and get it to him no matter means potential.

“Hopefully subsequent time it may end up in a purpose.”

An ex-Leaf on each line

A ghost of Maple Leafs previous hopped the boards with each Coyotes shift.

Unfold throughout 4 completely different strains, the names Travis Boyd, Phil Kessel, Riley Nash, and Alex Galchenyuk took turns bringing again recollections for Leafs Nation.

Galchenyuk picked up a revenge help on Dzingel’s winner, his second of the evening and a uncommon rush purpose for the Coyotes.

However Contract 12 months Kessel was probably the most noticeable of the bunch, thrilling with a few offensive bursts that had “commerce bait” written throughout them.

Toronto is getting ready to full well being, lastly

It solely took till 35 video games, nevertheless it seems the Maple Leafs can have a 100 per cent wholesome lineup for Saturday’s tilt in St. Louis.

Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall (COVID protocol) are set to hitch the membership in Arizona on Thursday, a day without work, and needs to be obtainable to practise Friday and — if medical offers the inexperienced mild — play Saturday.

This spells dangerous information for Nick Ritchie, who already cleared waivers final week and will slide off the energetic roster till wanted.

Marner and Engvall immediately make Toronto’s penalty kill higher, and Engvall improves the fourth line’s pace, power and defensive accountability.

Sure, Matthews has had no concern producing in Marner’s absence, however defensively the Leafs are a extra porous group.

“Two massive influence gamers. Guys which can be key components of our lineup,” Tavares says. “Mitchy is likely one of the greatest wingers within the league and performs in each scenario for us, a man we depend on and you understand, and Pierre continues to mature and make an influence for us.”

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