Leafs change their 'frame of mind' with more urgency needed
TSN SportsCentre Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who practised at Ford Performance Centre on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Maple Leafs held a 20-minute practice on Wednesday as they regrouped following a 7-3 blowout loss in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"There's adjustments always to be made," said coach Sheldon Keefe, "but when your frame of mind changes a lot of things just kind of snap back into place. Obviously, we weren't anywhere near ourselves yesterday."
Toronto started slow and fell behind Tampa Bay 3-0 in the first period.
"That's something that we've really tried to emphasize this year is getting on our toes to start games and we didn't do that last night," said winger Mitch Marner. "It's a new slate now. Looking to Game 2 now."
"It wasn't so much a structural thing as an urgency thing," Keefe noted. "We were tentative."
The Leafs did a light workout on the ice that mimicked a morning skate.
"I did think it was important to get on the ice and be together as a group," said Keefe. "Obviously it's tough coming in today. You don't feel good about the effort or result you got last night, but you brush yourself off and you get back to work."
Marner insisted there was no change in the mood around the team.
"Same as always, man," the 25-year-old from Markham, Ont., said. "We're all happy to be here. We're all grateful to be with this organization, this team, so that's how you look at it every day."
"We know that we need to play a lot better," said winger William Nylander. "Everybody knows what we're able to do in here so I think we're kind of relaxed."
Nylander, who is in his eighth season with the Leafs, smiled when it was mentioned that there's some negativity about the team on social media.
"I mean, I've been here for a while so I've been through it," the 26-year-old Swede said. "It is what it is so I don't worry too much about it ... everybody trusts everybody in this room so we're not too worried about what you guys say."
"We have bounced back very well when we haven’t been ourselves or gotten a good result," Keefe stressed.
Ilya Samsonov often skips the main practice the day after he plays.
"He wanted to get on the ice today," said Keefe. "To me, he was sending a message to the team about how focused he is and he had an excellent practice today as short as it was and, to me, looks ready to get back at it."
Keefe didn't commit to starting Samsonov in Game 2 in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's loss.
"Sammy's going in net, for sure," he said without hesitation on Wednesday. "He's another guy that has bounced back really well."
The 26-year-old from Russia allowed six goals on 29 shots before being pulled.
"I will be better," Samsonov vowed after the game. "I played like s--t."
Samsonov was not available to the media on Wednesday. He is now 1-6 with an .895 save percentage in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Joseph Woll, who played the third period on Tuesday, has never started a game in the NHL postseason.
Matt Murray (concussion) did not take part in practice.
Michael Bunting was assessed a match penalty for hitting defenceman Erik Cernak, who did not have the puck, in the head on Tuesday night.
"Bunts, to me, is trying to set himself up to win a race for the puck," Keefe said. "It got away on him. The guy wasn't expecting it. I am sure Bunts is expecting a battle in that situation and he didn’t get one."
Following a hearing on Wednesday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Bunting would be suspended for three games.
"He's a guy who plays with our top players and has the ability to score goals," Keefe said before the suspension was announced. "Plays with lots of energy and all that. He's come to be an important part of our team for sure."
Bunting, who scored 23 goals in the regular season while playing in all 82 games, did not skate on a regular line at practice as the Leafs anticipated a ban.
"He does his job very well of getting around that net and being a guy that gets in people's faces," Marner said. "Also very good at high tips, making plays off that, and making plays down low, so that's what you'll miss but we got a lot of guys in this dressing room who can come in and do a great job."
Cernak has been ruled out for Game 2 by the Lightning.
University of Minnesota product Matthew Knies skated on the third line with Ryan O'Reilly and Noel Acciari at practice and may make his Stanley Cup playoff debut on Thursday.
"That'd be awesome," the 20-year-old said. "Every kid's dream to play in the playoffs and play for the Stanley Cup. I'd be super stoked and pumped to be a part of it and contribute."
"We think he's a great option for us," said Keefe. "In the games that he's played, I think he did a good job. He's taken care of all that he can do in the short amount of time he's been here ... We brought him in here for a reason and gave him the games we gave him for reason because we felt he'd be a good option for us if needed and the more experience we could give him the better. Today in practice we tried to get him some proper reps because he really hasn't had that this week."
Knies played the final three regular season games with the Leafs, including one against the Lightning. He is no stranger to pressure-packed games having played at the World Juniors and, most recently, in the Frozen Four championship game.
"He's a big power guy," Marner observed of the 6-foot-2, 210 pound left winger. "He knows how to work the puck low. He's played in big games himself in his career. Obviously still young and it was NCAA, but he's played in big moments so nothing new, I'm sure."
"You've seen the speed and how strong he is on the puck and the way he can shoot the puck," noted Nylander. "He could add a lot on the forecheck too and help us get pucks back that way. He's a tremendous player. It will be fun for him to play his first one."
Knies took part in the pre-game warm-up on Tuesday night as the team looked to get him acclimated to the environment.
"It's pretty crazy," he said. "That was only my second time skating on Scotiabank [Arena ice] so to see the fans, to see the towels, it's an exciting environment and I was happy to see the atmosphere from the ice level. It was a good experience."
Knies stayed out late at practice to do some extra work with O'Reilly.
"Having a guy like that who's such a veteran in the NHL, it's good for me," Knies said. "He's teaching me along the way ... It's been valuable information for me and helped me adjust a lot better."
Knies is also living with John Tavares, who has offered insight on preparing for games. Although the captain couldn't help the rookie solve Toronto's traffic situation.
"It kind of stinks, to be honest," Knies said with a laugh. "Getting home from the game was a long time coming. There was an accident so my Google Maps couldn't figure me out on the way home. I lost JT for a little bit so I was on my own and stranded in Toronto."
With O'Reilly moving to the third line at practice, Tavares moved back to the middle of the second line.
"Our bottom six didn't have a great day yesterday so there's that," Keefe said. "But also wanted to get John some reps back at centre. He hasn't had those all week and if we end up moving things around I want him to be comfortable there."
Alex Kerfoot joined Tavares and Nylander on the second line.
"We're back," Nylander said with a grin. "We played together a lot in the playoffs and in big games so I think we can build off of what we've been able to do in the past."
Calle Jarnkrok replaced Bunting on the top line with Auston Matthews and Marner during Tuesday's game and they teamed up to score Toronto's only even-strength goal.
"He just brings a lot of speed," said Marner. "He gets the puck on and off his stick quickly. He makes plays up the ice so I don't think much changes when he gets on our line, between him and Mike."
The Leafs were shorthanded eight times on Tuesday and the Lightning made them pay by scoring four power-play goals.
"We have to be more disciplined," Tavares said. "Some calls or those ones that are borderline are probably going to go their way."
"They're experienced," Tavares explained. "They've gone through it many times and they understand how to play playoff hockey. And probably the respect they've earned throughout the league so, you know, we have to be aware that we have to be really disciplined with how dangerous their power play is."
The Leafs had four power plays in Game 1.
Does it feel like the Lightning get the benefit of the doubt?
"I have no idea," Marner said with a sigh. "You got to ask the refs about that. We're just out there to play hockey and play our game so let the refs call what they want to call."
"I don't know," said Matthews. "Not necessarily. Most of the penalties that were called were penalties."
The Lightning had 33 power-play chances in last year's seven-game series versus 28 for the Leafs.
Defenceman Victor Hedman, who played only six minutes and 35 seconds before leaving Game 1 with an undisclosed issue, will be a game-time decision on Thursday, coach Jon Cooper told reporters.
Forward Michael Eyssimont, who left Tuesday's game after absorbing a big hit from Jake McCabe, will not play in Game 2.
Forward Tanner Jeannot, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since April 6, skated on a regular line at Tampa's practice and may return on Thursday.
Lines at Wednesday's Leafs practice:
Jarnkrok - Matthews - Marner
Kerfoot - Tavares - Nylander
Knies - O’Reilly - Acciari
Aston-Reese - Kampf - Lafferty
Brodie - McCabe
Rielly - Schenn
Giordano - Holl
Gustafsson - Liljegren