Mrazek looks to pick up where Campbell left off
TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who held a media availability at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday ahead of tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
Petr Mrazek will make his Leafs debut tonight against an opponent he's had plenty of success against. The Czech native is 7-1-2 with a .920 save percentage against the Ottawa Senators in his career.
Jack Campbell played well last night, stopping 31 of 32 shots in a 2-1 win and it's now up to Mrazek to hold serve as this new goalie tandem system gets going.
"More of the same," said coach Sheldon Keefe when asked what he's looking for in net. "It's a great chance for Petr here. He's had a good pre-season, a good camp. Jack's coming off a great performance yesterday and we're looking for more of the same."
Campbell's best work came in the first 10 minutes last night as the Leafs struggled to find their legs against the Montreal Canadiens. A better start tonight against the rested Senators is a point of emphasis.
"We got to be ready," Keefe stressed. "I mean, we weren't ready from the drop of the puck and that's disappointing. Caught us off guard, frankly, a little bit because it wasn't an issue, whatsoever, through pre-season. Obviously, not the way we want to come out, especially on home ice. Now, you come on the road here playing against a fresh team that you know is going to be ready, they're going to be excited to play here today. We have to be sharp. So, that was not nearly good enough ... it could've been over before it started."
William Nylander led the Leafs in scoring in the playoffs (five goals and three assists in seven games) and the winger picked up right where he left off in Wednesday's season opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Nylander scored the game-winning goal via a beautiful snipe on Jake Allen.
"That was sweet," said defenceman Justin Holl. "Really good patience and picked his corner really nicely. You love to see it."
Why did Nylander delay slightly before shooting?
"I don't know, it just happened," the 25-year-old insisted. "It's just what happened out there. I didn't really plan on doing anything. It's just the way it unfolded."
"Clutch goal for us," said Keefe. "It's what you need. When you get a chance like that with one of your best players, you're expecting him to be able to capitalize. He did just that. It was a great hand off there between he and Mitch [Marner]. Mitch had a lot of poise to hang onto the puck and get us organized and then a good line change and then Willy's right on the ball. As soon as he hits the ice, he's ready to go."
Five-on-five shot attempts favoured the Leafs 21-7 when Nylander was on the ice giving him the best CorsiFor percentage on the team, per NaturalStatTrick.com. Nylander finished the night with five shots on net.
"Will was good in a lot of other areas so a very positive sign for him and us," Keefe said.
With Auston Matthews (left wrist) sidelined, John Tavares has moved up to the top-line centre spot leaving Nylander to drive the second unit alongside Alex Kerfoot and Michael Bunting. And, so far, Nylander is stepping up. Keefe is rewarding him with more ice time. Nylander played 18 minutes and 18 seconds on opening night. Last season, he averaged 16 minutes and 36 seconds per game.
It was also a good season opener for Pierre Engvall, who cracked Toronto's opening-night lineup for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old is getting more of an opportunity following the injury to Ilya Mikheyev, who suffered a broken thumb on Saturday and will be out eight weeks.
Engvall is getting power-play time for the first time in the NHL and responded with a man-advantage marker on Wednesday. Engvall also scored in both pre-season games he played in last week.
"He's been shooting the puck with so much confidence," said Campbell, "and he's got such a heavy shot so it's no surprise they're going in now. He's super confident and we need him to keep carrying that confidence into the next game."
Engvall seemed to find instant chemistry with linemates and Czech mates David Kampf and Ondrej Kase. That trio was fed a steady diet of defensive-zone starts and saw a lot of the Christian Dvorak line.
"We're starting in the d-zone and trying to play them tough there and not give them much and then use our skill and speed to create offence and I think we showed that," Engvall said. "We played hard down there, but always got a lot of offensive shifts."
The communication on the line is still a work in progress, though.
"They speak Czech," Engvall said with a grin. "I don't know Czech, but I think I'm going to learn fast, catch up some words."
"He had a really strong game," said Keefe. "Skated well. Scored us a big goal on the power play. Gave us a lot of great shifts. Had some tough assignments, you know, playing against some of their top people and starting in our own end a lot of the time."
Keefe was so impressed with the new-look third line that he sent them over the boards in the final minute to defend a 2-1 lead. That move nearly backfired, though, when Engvall needlessly iced the puck with 12 seconds left.
"He was really good," Keefe said before breaking into a smile. "So good that we'll give give him a pass for shooting at the empty net there."
Defenceman Timothy Liljegren, a healthy scratch last night, will be on the ice for warm-up.
"We have a decision to make towards the end of warm-ups once we get a feel for guys," Keefe said.
Projected Leafs lines for tonight's game in Ottawa:
Ritchie - Tavares - Marner
Bunting - Kerfoot - Nylander
Engvall - Kampf - Kase
Spezza - Amadio - Simmmonds
Rielly - Brodie
Muzzin - Holl
Sandin - Dermott
Injured: Matthews (writ), Mikheyev (broken thumb)