TSN SportsCentre reporter Mark Masters reports on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who practiced at the Ford Performance Center on Wednesday before their game against the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
After Monday’s 4-2 loss, Sheldon Keef he didn’t hold back when explaining how his talented group fell short against the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes.
“The difference between us and Arizona is that we have elite players,” the coach stated bluntly. “Our elite players didn’t play like elite players. They couldn’t make a difference.”
After a day off Tuesday, Keefe met with his top players on Wednesday.
“He explained what he wanted to say and how it came out and I leave it like that”, extreme mitch marner said. “We have closed the doors here for a reason and we have conversations without you for a reason. We had that conversation today. We understand. We are grown men.”
“I used some of the wrong words to try to describe what I was trying to describe,” Keefe said, “which is that the difference in the game was just that we couldn’t produce either power play or 5-on-5. And that’s really the difference, with all the time we had. But in no way did I mean anything beyond that.”
auston matthews He broke into a smile when asked about the coach’s initial criticism.
“This is my seventh year here now and I understand how it works,” the 25-year-old center said. “I think the conversations that take place behind closed doors without the media and stuff are more general discussions rather than just harping on the guys.”
Marner added: “I don’t think anyone was hurt by the comments or anything like that.”
Keefe was asked if players are so picky these days that he now has to choose his words carefully.
“I don’t think we’re at that point,” he said. “I think we should always be mindful of the words we use and how we communicate. Sometimes emotions can get the best of us in this game or in any competitive setting. You want to communicate well. That’s an important piece as a leader. “
Matthews has produced one goal, which represents his only point of strength so far this season.
“We’re four games in,” the reigning Hart Trophy winner said. “Obviously, nothing is going to be perfect… I’m still trying to find it a little offensive. I’m just working on some things and getting into a groove. Sometimes things take time.”
Matthews, Marner and michael bunting they were among the most dominant lines in hockey last season. So what is missing now?
“They haven’t been able to hit the net with the same regularity,” Keefe observed. “Auston hasn’t had as many clear looks at the net. The message to them is similar to the rest of the team. Don’t get frustrated. Look to challenge and attack inside. Don’t get comfortable with possession and time in the offensive zone, challenge the net and try to make it difficult for the rival”.
Marner thinks he and Bunting can do a better job creating space for Matthews.
“When you have a striker like Auston, a lot of people really want to take him away,” Marner said. “When that happens, we have to take our ice. We have to take it to the net and challenge opponents one-on-one a little bit more. We did better last game. We have to infiltrate the interior a little bit more. I think that’s just reach”.
“Those guys are going to be fine,” Keefe stressed. “Whether it’s 5-on-5 or power play, the rhythm will start to come. As things settle down from there, all of a sudden the games aren’t as close. You start playing ahead more consistently.” The other teams begin to take their chances. Things start to fall into place. It’s early here. We have to make sure we keep all of that in proper perspective.”
Matthews scored just once in his first six games last season. He finished with 60 goals and another Rocket Richard Trophy.
The Leafs are averaging 2.75 goals per game, which ranks them 23rd overall heading into Wednesday’s games. Toronto averaged 3.8 goals per game last season, which was second overall.
“It’s fair to say offensively we haven’t found our groove yet,” Keefe said. “Sometimes, it looks great. Other times, not so much. That’s probably all I look at.”
The team also started slow last season (2-4-1) before getting the offense going.
“Whether it’s our individual players or our team, we had an unprecedented regular season last year,” Keefe said. “It took some time to get to that point. You have that, but let’s not settle for that. Let’s be better than that.”
The power play is converting 21.4 percent of the time so far, which is tied for 15th overall going into Wednesday’s games. Toronto scored on a league-leading 27.3 percent of its chances last season.
The Leafs didn’t generate anything in their first four downs against the Coyotes on Monday before finally taking advantage of the fifth down. In Wednesday’s practice, the coaching staff provided the top unit with what Keefe called “a change of pace.”
Matthews, Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander Y morgan rielly he started a drill with a five-to-one lead. assistant coach spencer carbery he had his stopwatch go and sent in a second penalty after some time had passed. He then entered a third penalty and finally a fourth.
“The reason you do that is because you’re really trying to create opportunities for puck speed in terms of shooting and passing,” Keefe said. “With fewer interruptions, you can get the rhythm and the feel of the puck breaking up. So it’s a drill that we do from time to time for those reasons and ultimately it becomes a natural five-on-four. Those guys They’ve been practicing a lot of five-on-four, so today we gave them a different look.”
The second unit did traditional five-on-four reps.
jake muzzin he was placed on injured reserve after leaving Monday’s game with a neck injury.
“He’s doing what he can do,” said Marner, who calls Muzzin probably his closest friend on the team. “If he comes back and plays this year or whenever or whatever happens, you know, just make sure he can do what he wants to do for the rest of his life and enjoy time with his family.” I think that’s the most important thing. Obviously, on the ice, for us, it’s a big missing piece. He does so much for us on and off the ice. He just calms down on the ice when he has the puck. He only the leadership that he brings. All that kind of stuff. He’s definitely a big piece that we’re going to be missing, but life off the ice is always more important.”
Muzzin missed time with two concussions last season, among other ailments.
“They told me it’s not a head injury at all,” Keefe said.
The team is still waiting for a timeline on this latest injury.
“Jake has had a number of injuries that have been a concern for us,” Keefe acknowledged. “Any time a player gets injured and has had as many injuries as Jake has had to deal with, there’s concern, of course. How much concern? I don’t know. It’s probably too early to tell at this point.” We had an event that he was at last night and he looked like himself in a lot of ways. He is here at the facility today. We’ll just let the process work itself out with the doctors and go from there.”
Muzzin missed most of the preseason due to a sore back.
With Muzzin out, Victor Mete he will make his Leafs debut on Thursday night.
“I’m excited to play in my hometown in a Leafs jersey,” said the 24-year-old from Woodbridge, Ontario. “It will be a very good moment for me.”
“I hope he skates and uses his legs,” Keefe said. “I hope to see him involved and increase the pace of play from the back.”
“He’s got big wheels on him,” observed Marner, who played with Mete in the Ontario Hockey League. “He can move very well up and down the ice. He works pretty well with our system with the way we like to activate our D, like having them jump and join the race to do odd numbers.”
Mete will start next to Mark Giordano.
“I got to play with him a little bit in the preseason, so I know his game a little bit,” Mete said. “It’s nice to play with a veteran guy who knows the game well.”
rasmus sandin will take Muzzin’s place alongside justin holl. The top couple remains. morgan rielly with TJ Brodie.
“It is an opportunity for Rasmus to return to his natural state. [left] side,” Keefe said. “Mete and Giordano spent time together at camp. It’s just a look we wanted to see. For now, we wanted to keep Rielly and Brodie together to have a consistent pairing instead of going with three different pairings. I hope the guys move when the game starts, but it’s a good starting point for us.”
Sandin replaced Giordano at quarterback on the second power play unit. With Muzzin out, the team doesn’t want to put too much on the 39-year-old’s plate.
“Gio’s minutes are naturally going to go up across the board even though we still have him down that…third pair,” Keefe said. “We’re going to move him up and play him against tougher competition and take more of a penalty charge. At the same time, he gives us more opportunities to get more out of Rasmus.”
nick robertson will make its season debut on Thursday. The left winger skated down the second row with Tavares and Nylander and also did reps with the second power play unit.
“I hope he plays like he did,” said Keefe, who pulled the 21-year-old aside at the end of practice. “That was my message to him. He’s been through some stuff here in the last 10 days or so, but he was playing really well. He came down and played a few games with the Marlies. He did a good job there. He should have confidence. Just go in.” and take your chance. I think he’s excited to play, for sure.”
denis malgin it will be a healthy scratch.
Lines at Wednesday practice:
Pennants – Matthews – Marner
Engvall – Kerfoot – Jarnkrok
Giordano – Mete
Power play units at Wednesday practice:
Flanks: Matthews, Marner
Net front: Tavares
Flanks: Kerfoot, Robertson
Net Front: Jarnkrok
#Keefe #clears #air #Leafs #elite #players #TSN.ca