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Leafs' Nylander gets back on the ice, but status for Game 2 unclear

The Maple Leafs held a meeting and media availability at their hotel in Boston on Sunday. The Bruins held a meeting and media availability at Warrior Ice Arena.

The Leafs did not hold a practice on Sunday, but William Nylander skated with the team's other Game 1 scratches. The status of the 98-point winger remains a closely-guarded secret.  

"No updates on Willy," is all Sheldon Keefe would say. 

How's Nylander holding up? 

"No updates on Willy," the Leafs head coach reiterated. 

Teammates aren't giving away much either. 

"He seemed to be in good spirits today," said defenceman Jake McCabe. "I'm not going to speak too much on it. Yeah, that's it."

TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston reports that Nylander spent nearly an hour on the ice at the Bruins practice facility. 

Everyone agrees that Nylander's absence was felt in Saturday's 5-1 loss. 

"Willy does so many great things for us," McCabe said. "He can create by himself, frankly, and seemingly out of nothing plays. He's a threat all over the ice offensively for us and he kills penalties too. He's a good leader for us in the room."

Nylander played all 82 regular season games before something reportedly tightened up on the 27-year-old following Wednesday's finale in Tampa. 

"He's a huge part of our team," said veteran winger Ryan Reaves. "A guy who can put the puck in the net, a guy who can break out the puck by himself. He can carry the play, does a little bit of everything. You need those guys on the ice, especially in the playoffs. So, yeah, he's missed. I don't know what his status is, hopefully he's ready to go."

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Keefe did not confirm his Game 2 starter. 

"No updates on goaltending," the coach said, echoing a familiar playoff refrain. 

But Keefe did come to the defence of Ilya Samsonov after the goalie allowed four goals on 23 shots in Game 1. 

"From his perspective, I would characterize each of their goals as good goals," Keefe said after Saturday's loss. "There were tough chances and shots. He made a couple of saves. There was the one flurry in the first period toward the end, where stuff was happening around the goal line. He battled and kept it out. I don't put this one on him, for sure. On the other hand, we only scored one. That is not good enough to help any goalie win."

Samsonov has allowed 15 goals in his last three games dating back to the regular season. 

"It doesn't matter," he said. "I forgot about this. Keep on working. It doesn't mean after three games I get some bad goalie. We see in the last three months what's going on. I believe in myself. I believe in my skill. I believe in everybody in this locker room. This is why you make some confidence."

Jeremy Swayman was excellent for the Bruins on Saturday. He stopped 35 of 36 shots to earn the win in his first career Game 1 start. However, Jim Montgomery refused to commit to a Game 2 starter on Sunday. 

"We're still contemplating what's the right way to go," Montgomery said. 

The Bruins have alternated between Swayman and Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark in 27 straight games. 

"It is going to be hard to go away from Sway," Montgomery acknowledged. "He played a terrific game, and we won 5-1. If we decide to go with Ullmark, we are comfortable with it. Our team is comfortable with it. It doesn't affect us in the room, whoever starts the next game."


The Leafs lost the goaltending battle and the special teams battle on Saturday.

Toronto failed to convert on three power play chances, including a lengthy 4-on-3 advantage at the start of the second period. 

"It was not good," Keefe said. "It was really slow and disconnected. Not good enough."

The Leafs finished seventh overall in power-play percentage (24 per cent) in the regular season, but faded down the stretch.

"Our power play hasn’t been great for a period of time now," Keefe noted. "The 4-on-3 was decent. We had some pretty good looks in and around the net. We got some pucks in there. We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. On the other [power plays], it was not enough time in the zone. By the time we got in and got settled, now the guys were a little more fatigued. That tends to slow you down in and of itself."

"I mean some good, some some bad," said centre Auston Matthews. "Obviously we'd like to be more consistent."

Nylander led the Leafs with 35 power-play points in the regular season. 

"Being cleaner in the neutral zone and on the entries is important," Keefe said. "That would be an area where you would miss Willy for sure, but the other guys are more than capable of finding their way through that."

The Leafs converted on only 12.2 per cent of their chances in the final 25 regular season games. They ranked 30th overall in that stretch since Feb. 27. 


The Leafs survived a couple Boston power plays in the first, but Jake DeBrusk scored twice on the man advantage in the second period. 

"We did a good job in the first," said winger Mitch Marner. "I think you do get a little sense of what the penalty kill is going to do when you get more than three or four. We've got to stay out of the box."

The Leafs finished 23rd in penalty-kill percentage in the regular season. Key killers Nylander and Bobby McMann (lower body) missed Game 1. McMann isn't expected back any time soon. 

As Marner noted, discipline was an issue as the Leafs ended up shorthanded five times. 

"Maybe we wanted it too much," theorized centre David Kampf. "High emotions. We have to be better tomorrow."

"Everyone was a little nervous," admitted top-line winger Tyler Bertuzzi, who got whistled for high sticking. "Just trying to get into the game and stuff like that happens but we've got to be a little bit more prepared to just kind of tone it down a bit and not be so emotionally invested and stick within the game."

Matthews, who only took five minors in the regular season, also got called for high sticking. 

"Sometimes in hockey, sticks rise," Keefe said. "We got two high-sticking penalties. It happens at times. You can't have it happen at this time of year. These things happen in the regular season as well, but you have to be more responsible with it. I don't think we can make too big of a deal out of that."

The one penalty Keefe really didn't like was the slash by Max Domi to the wrist of Brad Marchand

"But I love Max's initiative, competitiveness, physicality, and the passion he brought to the team yesterday," Keefe stressed. "He just crossed the line there. It was probably more of a reflection of the fact that we were already down three at that point."

Domi was not available to the media after the game on Saturday despite a request. 

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How can the Leafs generate more offence? 

"Not as many turnovers in the neutral zone," said Marner. "We've got to be more direct. We started doing a better job of that in the third period. A little bit throughout the first as well. In the second we kind of got away from that."

The Leafs have now been held to two or fewer goals in eight straight playoff games dating back to last year. 

"We were a little too east to west, not direct enough," said Reaves, who picked up an assist on Toronto's only goal. "This team, they'll make you pay when you make mistakes in the neutral zone. They come at you fast, so you have to be a lot more direct, you got to get in their zone a lot cleaner with a lot more pace."

The Leafs outshot the Bruins 8-2 with Marner on the ice in 5-on-5 play, per His possession numbers were tops among Toronto's forwards, but Marner finished without a point. 

"Mitch made some plays and got the puck to good spots at different times," Keefe said. "He was like a lot of our game and a lot of our other guys — at times, he was really good, but he needed to do it more consistently and more frequently. Whether it is him or the rest of our team, as we have gone through it, our plan and approach do not need to change. We just need to execute it more consistently and trust it. The guys who did had success in the game did that, while the guys who didn't didn’t have as much."

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The Leafs are now 2-7 in Game 1 during the Matthews-Marner era. Last year, they also lost Game 1 in the first round by four goals. 

"We need to be heads up," said Samsonov. "We've been in this situation last year against Tampa, and we need to believe in each other and stick together."

"Almost the Hakuna Matata kind of motto," said Reaves, referencing the song in The Lion King movie. "You can't be worried about what happened in the past. You just got to look forward and I think that's what this group is going to do."

The Bruins have now won eight straight games against the Leafs dating back to last season. 

"I didn't know that stat so clearly it's not spending any time in my head," said McCabe. "It's a long series. We've bounced back all year so I don't see why we can't do it again."

The Leafs are 4-4 in Game 2 in the Matthews-Marner era. 

"You have to be able to bounce back," said Keefe. "You have to be able to move on. You make your adjustments, and you get back at it. That is really it. You can't get too worked up about it. Whether the game finishes the way it did last night or if you lose the game in overtime, you are still down 1-0. You have to be able to deal with it. We have been through this. We have bounced back well. We have an opportunity to do that tomorrow."

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The Leafs are scheduled to skate at TD Garden on Monday morning. 

Leafs lines in Game 1: 

Bertuzzi - Matthews- Domi
Knies - Tavares - Marner
Robertson - Holmberg - Jarnkrok
Dewar - Kampf - Reaves

Rielly - Lyubushkin
Benoit - McCabe
Edmundson - Liljegren