The Leafs struggled to take penalties during the regular season, finishing tied for 20th in power play (2.8 per game). But Toronto has already been on the man advantage 10 times in two playoff games.
“Montreal has made it clear that they want to be very physical,” said coach Sheldon Keefe after Saturday’s victory. “I think the term they used was that they wanted to make a ‘war’ of this. ”
“It’s going to be a war over there”, Canadiens winger Josh Anderson had promised before the opening of the series.
“If you do that, you risk getting penalties against you,” Keefe continued. “Our job as a power play is to make them pay for that. “
The previously snake-bitten Leafs power play connected twice in six attempts in the 5-1 win in Game 2.
Take-out meals for Montreal?
“They’re calling a lot of batting penalties,” said the Canadiens defenseman. Joël Edmundson. “They let body checks through, so be physical and finish each check, but be smart with your stick. I think this is where you need to draw the line. “
The Habs crossed the finish line several times in the second period on Saturday. First, Brendan Gallagher has been whistled for strong grip TJ Brodie. A few minutes later Artturi Lehkonen was sent to the box to cut Wayne Simmonds. Shortly after the expiration of this penalty, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was called for a cross check Morgan Rielly.
Canadians did not like the calls and lost their focus.
“We were kind of against the umpires instead of the Leafs,” admitted Edmundson. “I think it killed us there. “
“We had the puck the entire second period,” said Keefe, “and that really, I think, caused some fatigue on the other side. “
Keefe, for the record, “hated” call waiting Zach Hyman in the first period, but acknowledged that officials “have anyone’s hardest job out there.” “
The Canadians have led the NHL in regular season hits, so physics is a big part of who they are. Interim coach Dominique Ducharme was asked to assess the effectiveness of his team’s physicality in the second game.
“There is good, there is bad,” he said. “If you look at the first half, I felt we did it the right way. “
Montreal beat Toronto 55-27 in Game 1, but that advantage fell to 44-36 in Game 2.
“I just thought we had a very committed hockey team throughout our roster,” said Keefe.
It certainly helps when the best player on the team does their part and Auston Matthews threw his weight all over the ice. He’s tied with Hyman for the team lead with nine hits in the series.
“He proved that he is a pure goalscorer and that he is going to score huge goals for us,” said the defender. Zach Bogosian, “But to see him physically engaged, he’s a great guy and when he plays so intense, it bleeds in the group. You can see how competitive he is and it’s a trickle down effect. It’s awesome to see. “
– NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 23, 2021
Matthews scored one goal, the game winner, and added two assists on Saturday.
“Going down 0-1 it was a do or die for us so I think everyone stepped up,” Matthews said.
“Auston was our best player,” said the veteran forward Jason Spezza. “We know his game increases in the most important moments. “
Matthews also dominated the point, winning 16 of 20 face-offs.
“I guess the best way to describe it is just very comprehensive,” Keefe said. “Extremely competitive, physical on the puck, made plays, scored a huge goal for us, played with all kinds of authority, strong on the faceoff point. There was really nothing that was missing. did not do extremely well. “
It was a top-down start for Toronto’s new second row, who were on the ice for Montreal’s only goal on Saturday night. With John Tavares outside, Nick Foligno went to the skating center between Alex Galchenyuk and William Nylander.
“It was pretty good,” said Galchenyuk, who was a healthy scratch in the first game. “I thought we had created a few chances. There have been several times, you know, we misunderstood each other. We just haven’t played together. [a lot], but as the games progress, we will feel comfortable, adapt, and help each other. “
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Canadians beat the Leafs 9-4 in eight minutes and 43 seconds. Toronto’s second line was on the ice in a five-on-five.
The Leafs chose not to practice Sunday before heading to Montreal. The schedule is condensed with matches 3 and 4 on consecutive nights, so it’s hard to build the chemistry right now.
“We just had a quick workout (15 minutes) so the more reps we get the more we are on the ice, that’s where the comfort level comes into play,” said Galchenyuk.
Nylander has played most of the season with Tavares, but insists his frame of mind doesn’t change with his longtime teammate sidelined.
“I’m just trying to play the same way,” said the 25-year-old. “It’s hard to lose a guy like that who means a lot to me and I learned a lot from him. We want to get together here and win a few games for John and I hope he can come back and play later. “
Nylander scored in both games of the series with Saturday’s power-play goal.
Nylander was asked where the defender Rasmus Sandin, who scored his first Stanley Cup playoff goal on Saturday, is regaining his confidence.
” Me. I taught him, ”Nylander laughs. “He lives with me so I guess he’s learning a bit. He looks and he sees and he learns. “
Thursday, Sandin was beaten on the Paul Byron winning goal, which came on a Leafs power play.
“He’s making a mistake there,” Keefe admitted. “I think his mistake is probably that he didn’t come out of the ice when that puck returned so he wouldn’t be tired in that case. It was the mistake and, of course, it popped into my mind. “
But after watching the video of the first game, the coach really liked what Sandin showed in his first Stanley Cup playoff appearance. So he kept it in alignment instead of going to the more experienced ones Travis Dermott. And he kept the 21-year-old in the upper power play unit instead of returning to Rielly, the older Leaf.
“I just think that with Rasmus the benefits can be very big for us in terms of skills and what he can bring,” Keefe explained. “It takes a little extra patience on our part. I just thought he was going to be better than he was in the first game. ”
Sandin rewarded that faith by scoring his first NHL goal since January 29, 2020. He had to wait for a coach challenge by Montreal before he could really enjoy it.
“I didn’t know what the challenge was, to be honest,” Sandin said. “I was a little nervous, to be honest, because we were just talking about the fact that I haven’t scored in a year and a half or something like that. I really wanted it to be a goal and I was super happy. when they called him. “
The Leafs’ power play has lacked a legitimate shooting threat from the point with just three goals to the advantage of the man coming off the defenseman’s stick in the past two regular seasons. Saturday night, Sandin beat Prix Carey with an explosion.
“When you play with the players you have on the power play, it’s not too difficult for me,” said Sandin. “I got it right in my wheelhouse and stepped in and knocked in the right place this time. “
– Maple Leafs de Toronto (@MapleLeafs) May 23, 2021
Sandin’s rise at the end of the season has been one of the most compelling stories around the Leafs. He was buried on the depth map at the start of the season behind Dermott and Mikko Lehtonen. Then, after being sent to the minors, Sandin suffered a broken foot in his first game with the Marlies. Add it all up and Saturday was only his 12th game since the start of the pandemic.
You wouldn’t know by watching him play.
“He’s so laid back and deceptive,” Matthews said. “He’s extremely talented. For his youth, it doesn’t seem like these big moments really rock him at all. He is extremely confident and plays very well and sees the ice well. “
The Leafs are scheduled to skate at the Bell Center on Monday morning.