TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who skated in two groups at Ford Performance Centre on Monday ahead of tonight’s preseason game against the Canadiens in Montreal.
Amazon Prime's 'All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs' five-part docuseries, which documents the 2020-21 56-game season, will be released on Friday and one of the most memorable scenes features Jack Campbell, crying and inconsolable, after the Game 7 loss.
"Everybody deals with emotions differently," the goalie said. "It was just devastating to think of letting the city down and [Jason Spezza] and Jumbo [Joe Thornton], you know, how bad we wanted to win for them. That motivates us and you'll see the work we've put in. We don't want to have that feeling again this season."
Campbell plans to watch some of the Amazon series and is encouraging everyone else to tune in. He's not worried about people seeing him at a low moment.
"Fans and not even hockey fans will appreciate the content because it's all authentic and our real emotions come out and, of course, there's vulnerability in it," the 29-year-old said. "Everybody knows how last season ended. It's never easy to deal with when you fall short of a goal, but I also think people will enjoy the show."
Campbell begins a new season tonight in Montreal where he will start and play half the game against the Canadiens. Petr Mrazek will play the second half.
"I'm fired up and ready to get back out there," Campbell said. "We're a highly motivated group and we want to stop talking about it and get out there and play some hockey."
Several reporters got a sneak peek at the five Amazon episodes, which led to a flurry of questions at Monday's media availability.
"I'm not going to entertain a lot of your questions on it, to be honest, because we're moving ahead with what's happening here," said head coach Sheldon Keefe.
William Nylander was comfortable talking about the series and plans on watching it. What intrigues him?
"Seeing what goes on in the locker room," he said. "Obviously, you're there, but it's fun to get another view of it."
Nylander offered details about a trip to a car-racing track that he organized for teammates, which was featured in the series.
"I don't know how good that was for us to be doing before the playoffs, but it was fun," Nylander said with a laugh. "It was nice to get your mind off the game and just do something else. We had been in the hotel rooms, [playing] video games and hockey for the last couple months before that so it was nice."
Nylander pointed out it was a small track with lots of turns so the highest speed reached was around 160 kilometres per hour. The players didn't race, to be clear, but were simply following a lead driver and learning from him.
"I like cars," he said with a smile. "It's not a huge passion of mine, but it's fun to drive fast."
Campbell likes what he sees from Mitch Marner so far at training camp.
"He's always highly motivated, but definitely has a burning desire to be the best and we're seeing it," Campbell observed. "He's looking like a force to be reckoned with."
Marner finished fourth in league scoring last season, but didn't pick up a goal on the power play. This season, the Leafs are looking to try out a new approach on the man advantage and Marner has been moved from his usual office on the half-wall to the middle of the ice.
"We feel like that's an under-utilized area by us," Keefe explained, "and getting the puck in Mitch's hands in that space, he has as good ability or better of anyone we have in terms of getting out of tight spaces and creating a play that you would otherwise think is not there. And, of course, it gives us the ability to have two shooters on the flanks."
Marner has reviewed video of Tampa's Brayden Point, who excels in the bumper position.
"In that spot you have a lot of options," Marner said. "I mean, you have a guy behind you in the one-tee spot, you have [Morgan Rielly], obviously, up top. Shooting-wise, you don't have to place it that much, it's just about getting it on net."
Every time Marner has been on the ice at training camp, he has spent time with new assistant coach Spencer Carbery, who is overseeing the power play, working on firing quick shots from the slot.
Ondrej Kase will make his Leafs pre-season debut tonight.
"He is a very versatile guy," said Keefe. "I am anxious to watch him more. He has a really good skill-set offensively with his ability to make plays and finish plays. Also, he is tenacious on the puck. He can move up and down our lineup and play anywhere we feel we need him."
Kase will start as the right winger on a line with fellow Czech native David Kampf and Nikita Gusev, who's at camp on a pro tryout. He will see time on the second power-play unit. Keefe also plans to give him some shorthanded time.
"He hasn't had a great amount of time on the penalty kill in his career, but I am hoping to give him some looks there to see what it looks like. From a skill-set standpoint, in terms of how he skates, his anticipation, and his hunger on the puck — all of the things we want on our penalty kill — he seems to have those traits. He just doesn't have a great deal of experience. We are going to give him those opportunities."
The biggest question mark with Kase is health. He only played three games last season.
"He has to stay healthy and all of that — all signs are good here thus far — but I think he has a really good skill set," Keefe said. "Because he hasn't played, his injury history and such, there's not a lot of talk about him, but he is a very good and reliable player."
Timothy Liljegren has only played 13 games with the Leafs since being picked in the first round at the 2017 draft.
"It's going into my fifth year, I need to play good. I need to get things done," the right-shooting defenceman said. "I have some games in the NHL and I feel like I'm ready for the next step."
The 22-year-old Swede is focused on being more secure with the puck and cutting down turnovers.
"Last year was a tough year for me," Liljegren said, "especially being on the taxi squad for a period of time and then coming down with the Marlies and then up again, but I grew a lot as a person and learned I have to play good whenever I play and can't focus on other things."
Josh Ho-Sang is still on cloud nine after making his pre-season debut with the Leafs on Saturday night.
"It's pretty indescribable," the 25-year-old Toronto native said. "I was definitely overcome with emotion all day. I couldn't really sleep before the game, which sucked, but it's so nice to have something to look forward to like that. It wasn't quite the real deal, but it's nice to put that jersey on in front of those fans … I thoroughly enjoyed every moment."
After the game, Ho-Sang posted a picture on Instagram of himself as a kid in a Leafs sweater with the caption, "Little Josh would be proud of big Josh."
"My grandma sent that to me," Ho-Sang said. "It was really cool. She took that picture when I was a little guy and learning to play. It's really cool to see how your life can come full circle. The biggest thing I'm trying to say is I'm still having fun."
What will the right winger remember most about his Leafs debut?
"Right before I went out for warm-up, I took a look at my jersey and I just wanted to take a moment and try and be present. When I was younger and played in the NHL I kind of just let it pass. I don't think I respected it as much as I should've. I took a moment to respect what was about to go on and be proud of how far I've come and also where I want to go."
Ho-Sang, a first round pick by the Islanders in 2014, is at Leafs camp on a pro tryout after spending last season in Sweden.
Lines at Leafs morning skate:
(Group travelling to Montreal)
Lines at Leafs practice:
Injured: Matthews (wrist), Engvall (hip), Woll (undisclosed), Scott (hip)