“Well, both, I think, is ideal,” Rielly said. “But in reality, it’s a challenge.”
That’s the tricky line his Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to cross right now and the challenge had just been highlighted in Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens that saw Nick Foligno miss the 27. last minutes due to injury.
When you still have games to play, you should to play. And injuries are an inevitable part of hockey, which the Leafs saw in a two-week streak where they had already lost Justin Holl (puck to face), Zach Hyman (MCL sprain) and Zach Bogosian (shoulder).
We really didn’t know what sent Foligno to the locker room at the end of the second period. He had tangled his skates with Joel Edmundson and slipped into the boards on his third and final shift of the night. And he grabbed his left leg after innocently stopping at the edge of Jake Allen’s crease just before carefully walking away.
The Leafs called it an upper body injury, but didn’t provide any details.
“I have no word on him, no,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “We have a day off [Tuesday] so we’ll see how it sets in and know more on the next training day [Wednesday]. »
Losing Foligno for any length of time would be particularly overwhelming under the circumstances. He’s still leveling up at his new organization, having dressed for just five games since arriving from Columbus at the trade deadline, and there was next to nothing about the game he fell.
The Leafs have roughly finished the North Division regular season title, but choose to push hard until the finish. They kept Foligno, Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell out of the second half of a back-to-back game last week, but showed no other inclination for load management beyond the more even distribution. ice time in the game.
“I think what we want to change [compared to] in the last couple of years you get into the playoffs, ”Rielly said. “Play well, play confident and don’t trip. Like you have confidence in your structure, you know what you’re doing and then you go and perform well.
They really liked what happened 5 on 5 against Montreal, where they beat their opponent 2-0, generating 88% of high danger chances and 54% of expected goals. But the Canadians countered with a power-play goal from Tyler Toffoli and the equalizer from Phillip Danault with 52 seconds left in regulation with Allen called out for an additional forward.
Cole Caufield then froze the clock in overtime for the second time in three days.
“I thought we played well enough to win the game and it comes down to kind of a flukey goal to equalize and send into overtime,” said Campbell, who made 20 saves.
Rielly added, “I think if you break down the turnovers, you break down odd men’s races, I thought we were fine.
The reality is that Foligno’s injury situation has eclipsed the result and another goal for Auston Matthews, who now has an incredible 18 to show in his last 18 games and beats the league with 39 on the season.
Foligno was acquired from the Blue Jackets for a first-round and two fourth-round pick – a hefty price tag that reflects the intangible qualities of the 33-year-old winger. Keefe noted how much confidence he emanated when he first joined the group in the dining room of the Delta Hotel in Winnipeg on April 21 and his teammates were impressed with his willingness to do so. hear her voice so early in the locker room.
“It’s not easy to join a new team late, but we’ve got a pretty open squad in there,” said Muzzin. “He comes in and he made himself heard. He doesn’t want to talk irrelevant, but I told him the other day about being yourself; he knows what to do, he is there.
You could argue that Foligno will benefit the most from these final games of the regular season due to his unfamiliar surroundings and now it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play them.
He has four assists to show for his brief stint in Toronto alongside Matthews and Mitch Marner, and Keefe wanted to find him a few minutes elsewhere just to get a glimpse of other possibilities before the postseason arrives.
“Every day I’m more and more comfortable with the gym, the coaching staff, the coaches, the system, but I also know full well that I can bring certain attributes that will help move things forward”, Foligno said Monday morning. “As my game gets more comfortable, more stuff will come out.”
Watching him hobble off the ice three minutes before the second intermission was worrying.
“Yeah, that’s obviously not great,” Rielly said. “I think even during the weeks he’s been here he’s been able to lead and influence guys and [offer] different points of view, different perspectives.
“I think he was exceptional. He’s just kind of integrated into our group.