TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs and Flyers skated at Scotiabank Arena ahead of Saturday's game.
Tyson Barrie doesn't look anything like the aggressive player who averaged 0.76 points per game over his last two seasons in Colorado.
"It's different switching teams," Barrie said, "and switching systems and coaches and the whole thing so you're just trying to feel it out a little bit and I'm still feeling some teammates out and trying to get some chemistry going and it's tough. I wish I had the answers for it."
After eight years with the Avalanche organization, the transition to Toronto has been anything but smooth on the ice. Barrie, who posted 59 points in 78 games last season, admits he's still struggling to adapt to a new style of play.
"With the way that we're playing and the structure that we have, we're not saying, ‘Don’t jump in,' but it's certainly not fully roaming around in the O-zone or anything like that," the 28-year-old explained. "So I'm just trying to play responsible defensively and kind of figure out where I fit in. I got to join the rush as opposed to leading it which is, I think, a good thing so I'm just trying to jump in and find the hole for the late guy."
Barrie has just five points, all assists, in 17 games this season and only one in the last 14 games.
Through 17 games last season, Barrie already had 14 points.
"I just think the biggest thing is getting comfortable with the players, getting comfortable with the coach, getting comfortable with the environment we have here in Toronto," said Mike Babcock with a smile will peering at the big media contingent. "Then, just realizing it gets back to being simple, simple and competing and everything will work out for you."
What's the biggest difference between Babcock and Avalanche coach Jared Bednar?
"They're very different coaches," Barrie observed, "but both respected and good at their jobs. I think Mike's a little more, you know, he knows exactly what he wants and how to do it and just trying to figure that out a little bit."
Last season, Barrie quarterbacked Colorado's top power play unit spending more than four minutes a night on the man advantage. This season, he's at 2:19 per game on the power play.
"I think the biggest change for him, for sure, is the puck touches on the No. 1 power play," said Babcock. "You've been that your whole career, suddenly you don't get to go out on the power play and, if the (No. 1) power play’s good ... if they score you don't even get to go out. So, you think about that, that's where you got all your feel, now you've got to reinvent yourself a little bit."
After averaging 2.8 shots per game last season, Barrie is down to 2.3 so far this year. He only registered three shots on net in the last three games.
"That's going to be a big focus, trying to get some more pucks through," Barrie said. "I've had a couple blocked the last few games, I've been a bit frustrated. There are certainly things that I need to adjust to a little bit, but then, when I do get chances and get an opportunity to get it through I got to do a better job too."
With the Leafs winning a season-high three straight games, Barrie feels like some pressure has been lifted off his shoulders.
"It's been, obviously, a bit frustrating," he admitted, "but we're starting to string some games together here so that’s the most important thing and I think when it gets down to it I'll be able to contribute when I really need to."
Mitch Marner believes Barrie will play a "massive" role once he's fully integrated.
"It's just trying to get him his own freedom right now," Marner said, "trying to get him in that zone that he can play at and feel comfortable with the puck and making his plays. I think everyone, when they first come in here they rush plays, it takes a little bit of time to get comfortable with our system and everything like that and as soon as he does it, he’s going to get right back into the mix of 60-odd-point guy."
"We feel he's gotten better and better," said Babcock. "We really feel our pairs are starting to come, all three of them. Pairs take longer – I believe – than lines, just because you've got to know the nuances of one another and feel it out and learn what you can do for one another to make each other better. Obviously, he's going in the right direction, just like our team."
"He's been a big part of our team in the locker room so far," added Marner. "He's still doing a lot for us when he is on the ice creating space and time for forwards up front and that first outlet pass is always on the tape. He's been great for us still even though the points haven't come and it’s going to come eventually."
Since the calendar flipped to November, Frederik Andersen has been locked in, stopping 98 of 103 shots (.951 save percentage) while posting three straight wins.
"It definitely felt like the puck was following me around," Andersen confirmed after Thursday's 37-save win against Vegas. "It's a good feeling."
Andersen has a .927 career save percentage in November making it, statistically, his best month.
In the showdown against Philadelphia last Saturday, Andersen stopped three shots off the stick of James van Riemsdyk while also denying his former teammate in the shootout. There's a good reason why Andersen seems to have JvR's number.
"I was actually out there for like four days this summer shooting on him when he came to work with (Leafs goalie coach) Stevie Briere in Minnesota," van Riemsdyk revealed. "So, I think I unleashed just about every move I had on him there so I was trying to go with something a little bit different and he got the better of me ... he's so big and so athletic for being that size and he reads the game really well too so he's got all those things going for him. He's certainly one of the harder guys to score on in the league."
After failing to hit the scoresheet in the first seven games of the season, van Riemsdyk is heating up with eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last eight games.
The Flyers get another shot at Andersen tonight and the Leafs will get another look at Brian Elliott even though Carter Hart has started and won the last two games.
How does coach Alain Vigneault determine his goalie rotation?
"It has changed drastically throughout the years where a No. 1 goalie would play 70 games, went down to 60 and now you’re almost looking at sharing the load, because the game is so quick and high-paced," the Flyers coach said. "So, we've got two guys (and) there's some good internal, competition, there's obviously performance-based (decisions) but Carter had the last two games and we're playing back-to-back so tonight will be Brian and tomorrow will be Carter."
Elliott stopped 23 of 26 shots last Saturday and then made nine more saves in a marathon 11-round shootout.
After the first period, the Flyers dominated last week's game, outshooting the Leafs 35-14 over the final 45 minutes.
"A lot of times when you catch a team on back-to-back games you need your goaltender to help you out a little bit and our goaltender did just that," Vigneault said. "He helped us get our legs, find a little bit of rhythm and momentum. They're not catching us on back-to-back games tonight so hopefully we’ll be real good right off the start."
"The two games since then they've been unreal," noted Babcock. "They're playing good, they're playing fast, they've got three good lines, they've got six good D, they come at you. I like the way they play. I liked them in the second and third period in our game. I thought we were better in the first, I thought they were better than us in the majority of that game from that point on. I've really liked their two games leading up. They played two hard-working, fast teams in Montreal and Carolina. So, they're obviously playing good and look like they have a good hockey club."
Travis Dermott played less than nine minutes against the Golden Knights on Thursday night. It was the defenceman's fourth game since returning from off-season shoulder surgery.
"He's got to earn the confidence of [assistant coach Dave Hakstol], he's got to earn his own confidence," said Babcock. "He's got to sort things out good and what you guys see and what we see are obviously different ... he's doing a good job and going in the right direction. We like what (Justin) Holl has done, we like who Dermy is, now we've got to get him to that. Anybody who has missed any time, as you can see, it's a hard league."
Leafs lines at Saturday's morning skate:
Johnsson - Matthews - Nylander
Moore - Tavares - Marner
Mikheyev - Kerfoot - Kapanen
Timashov - Shore - Gauthier
Rielly - Ceci
Muzzin - Barrie
Dermott - Holl
Leafs power play units at Saturday's morning skate:
Marner - Tavares - Matthews
Spezza^ - Kerfoot - Nylander
^ Placeholder for Kapanen, who worked with the PK
Flyers lines at Saturday's morning skate:
van Riemsdyk - Giroux - Farabee
Lindblom - Couturier - Konecny
Twarynski - Hayes - Voracek
Andreoff - Raffl - Pitlick
Provorov - Niskanen
Gostisbehere - Braun
Sanheim - Myers