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With Matthews out again, Leafs look for Nylander to produce

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander - Getty Images

Leafs centre Auston Matthews will miss a second straight game due to an undisclosed injury. 

"It's difficult," said Leafs captain John Tavares. "Guys responded really well last game, [so] same type of mentality. We gotta play together as a group, everyone stepping up and doing more, not one guy trying to fill his shoes."

But if there's one player who can pick up the goal-scoring slack it may be William Nylander, who potted 40 in the regular season. Nylander has not produced a point in two games since returning from his own undisclosed health issue. 

"We're obviously going to need a big effort from him," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "In his first game, he looked like guy that's very much adjusting to the playoffs and to the opponent and all those kind of things,  and getting himself back up and running. But certainly the other night I thought he was far better in terms of moving his feet and creating chances and all those kind of things. So, that's an encouraging sign."

Nylander fired five shots on net and hit a crossbar on a breakaway in Game 5. 

"He seemed a little bit more familiar with his game in his second game," said Tavares. "Obviously, having the time off and then stepping in in the middle of the series is not always the easiest thing so only expect him to get better. Really started to use his feet. His ability to make plays and create opportunities increased the other night."

The Leafs have scored just nine goals in five games against the Bruins. Only the Washington Capitals, who were swept by the New York Rangers, have averaged fewer goals per game in the playoffs. 

ContentId(1.2114520): Leafs believe Nylander is ready to break out in Game 6 against Boston


The Leafs have found a way to get wins without star players all season. And they were able to steal Game 2 on the road without Nylander. 

"We have confidence there," Keefe said. "I think we can trust in the group. If anything, it just shows the strength of the group and the importance of the group, not looking to others to do the job but just doing your part, and then trusting that the group will find a way to prevail in the end."

Tuesday's win may have been Toronto's most complete effort of the series. 

"Honestly, kept it pretty simple," said defenceman Joel Edmundson. "Just got pucks deep and worked their D down low, got more traffic in front of the goalie and just shot more pucks. It wasn't anything flashy. It was just hard work."

"I don't think their game changed as much last game," observed Bruins defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk. "They were just desperate, and if [Matthews] was in the lineup it probably would’ve been more of the same. It’s more of their mentality of having to fight with their backs against the wall and that's the mentality we have to bring tonight ourselves."

Still, it feels like the absence of Matthews has to catch up to the Leafs eventually, right? 

"Obviously, tremendous player," said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery. "Best goal scorer in the league since he came in. Great player, but they played great without him last game."

Matthews skated prior to the main group on Thursday. It was the third straight day he's been on the ice.  

"Thursday did look like a bit of progress," said TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston. "He's just not in a position right now where he can go. In fact, one source told me it would be 'reckless' for him to try and play through the injury that he's picked up since initially playing through an illness earlier in the series."

ContentId(1.2114522): Toronto looking to build on solid play in second straight game without Matthews


The Bruins blew a 3-1 lead to the Florida Panthers in the first round last year. 

"Obviously right when we got down 3-1 that was a topic we brought up," said Edmundson. "Just gave us some momentum and gave us some positivity that we needed. Anything can happen."

Boston isn't shying away from the painful memory. 

"We talked about it yesterday and we've moved on," said Montgomery. "We think we've grown from it. Again, our mindset is staying in the moment."

"We've obviously learned a lot from last year, but this is a completely new year," said defenceman Brandon Carlo. "I think you guys are bringing that up too much ... we're focused on one day at a time in this room." 

ContentId(1.2114527): Bruins under heat in Game 6 with Leafs clinching to lifeline, even without Matthews


Brad Marchand was held off the scoresheet for the first time in the series in Game 5. He also took a pair of penalties. It was the first time he ended up in the penalty box in the series. The winger only took one penalty in his previous 12 playoff games. 

"I know he's going to be great tonight," Montgomery assured. "I know he's going to be competing hard. That's what we know and that's the voice he's brought as a captain to our team."

One of Marchand's penalties on Tuesday came after a wrestling match with Leafs centre Pontus Holmberg

"I don't know how much of a wrestling match it was," said Leafs winger Calle Jarnkrok with a laugh. "I think it was more the ref got him at the end there."

ContentId(1.2114516): All In: Pressure on Marchand to respond as Bruins look to solve Woll


David Pastrnak was also held off the scoresheet for the first time in the series on Tuesday. He has two goals in the five games. 

"People over analyze just the goal scoring," said Montgomery. "They don't recognize what he does. He's out there for us in every empty-net situation. People underestimate his value as a defensive player and a guy that knows how to win."

Pastrnak has just seven shots in 5-on-5 play. 

"We have defended really well in this series," said Keefe. "Not perfect. At times, you are going to make mistakes, and guys like Pastrnak are going to stress you and find ways to get through. If you look at the goals we've given up to him, one is a faceoff [play], and one is a neutral-zone forecheck where we make a mistake, and he gets in behind us. For the most part, we have done a really good job defensively. Our chances against have been really low and manageable ... I have really liked our approach to defending in this series. That is not the reason we are in the deficit."

Pastrnak is doing his best to make a physical impact on the series, including after the whistle. He went after Morgan Rielly during a second period scrum in Game 5 before winger Matthew Knies intervened. 

"He's going after our best defenceman and just don't like to see that," Knies explained. "I don't want Mo to get into interactions like that. I need him to focus on the game and helping us win. That's about it."

"It's great," Edmundson said. "He might be a rookie, but he's a big kid. He plays heavy. He's obviously talented, but he's got that edge to him, which I notice in playoffs here. It’s good to see and we rally behind stuff like that."

ContentId(1.2114512): 'He's a big kid': Edmundson likes Knies' intensity against Bruins top players


After taking a puck to the face, Carlo was not on the Bruins bench to start overtime in Game 5. 

"My muscle was just spasming, so my eye was kind of closed," he explained. "If any of you guys have seen me in my glasses, you'll understand that I need both eyes for sure. It wouldn’t open back up until the game was over."

Danton Heinen will miss Game 5 with an undisclosed injury. 


The Leafs did not run lines at their morning skate. 


Lines at Bruins skate: 


Marchand - Coyle - Geekie

DeBrusk - Zacha - Pastrnak

Van Riemsdyk - Frederic - Brazeau

Beecher - Boqvist - Maroon



Lohrei - McAvoy

Lindholm - Carlo

Wotherspoon - Shattenkirk

Forbort - Grzelcyk