Sheldon Keefe’s goal this week is to keep a balance.
With the Maple Leafs’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoff game opener against the Montreal Canadiens only on Thursday, the head coach will be able to teach a class on a suitable schedule once the face-off d he opening will finally arrive at the Scotiabank Arena.
“It’s probably a little longer than you would like, but it’s a manageable amount,” Keefe said. “We want to make sure our game is good and our guys are feeling great before we play.
“These types of weeks are usually filled with meetings and discussions and things of that nature. It’s a little different, given that we are up against an opponent that we know very well. But the practices themselves will be important and we will get things going again. The guys are excited to officially end the regular season and move on to the next phase.
“There’s a lot of time to sort through the information and make sure we’re delivering the most appropriate. ”
The Leafs will return to the Ford Performance Center for practice Sunday after taking a day off on Saturday. Players will have an extra day off before the opening.
It goes without saying that the power play must find some ground in the coming days. The Leafs are 16th at 20%, which is mediocre considering the talent that goes beyond the boards when the opposition shoots a penalty.
Keefe will also want to continue to see more improvements from the team defensively.
The Leafs finished their 56-game schedule with 132 five-on-five and 95-against goals; last season, in 70 games, they had 158 for and 157 against.
After the final in Winnipeg on Friday night, veteran Jason Spezza said the Leafs were made for the playoffs.
“We’ve been through some tough times as a group, I think there are guys in the room who think we have a lot to prove after the playoffs after last year,” said Spezza. “We’ve been a hungry team since our loss to Columbus and it’s time for us to show that we’ve matured as a group.”
Late Friday night, goaltender Jack Campbell wouldn’t have said he was starting game one if he had had his mouth full.
While the majority of observers realize it makes more sense for Campbell to be ahead of Frederik Andersen to start the series, Campbell followed the team line after the Leafs’ loss to the Jets.
“I’m excited for whatever comes my way and whatever the role,” Campbell said. “I am excited about the team we have and the camaraderie.
“It’s going to be an absolute battle there, but we’re prepared and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We cannot wait.
Campbell doesn’t have any playoff games on his National Hockey League resume. With the way he’s played this season – he set an NHL record with 11 wins in his first 11 decisions and finished with a 17-3-2 record – it shouldn’t matter.
“If anything, it’ll be even more exciting,” Campbell said of having no playoff experience. “I already like playing the game the way it is and the next step is the playoffs, so if my number is called I’ll be ready to take the opportunity.”
If you’re looking for experience, the Leafs’ fourth line has it all.
Unless Keefe changes his mind, Spezza is expected to be between Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds.
In 308 Stanley Cup playoff games, the trio have 224 points.
“Me and Jumbo have played a lot together over the past few weeks and it’s been great, to have the chance to have some chemistry,” said Spezza. “Simmer is a guy who can score goals so we think we can be a good line.
“We know there could be changes throughout the playoffs and you always have to be ready to move, but we think we can be a line that builds energy and plays with some balance with the puck. . ”
In their final qualifying round game against Columbus last August, the Leafs had a Pierre Engvall fourth line centered on Kyle Clifford and Spezza.
The Canadians are back in better health, and although defenseman Shea Weber did not train on Saturday, coach Dominique Ducharme said he was “very confident” that the team captain will recover from an injury at the top of the field. body to play the first game. who trained while coming back from injury were Brendan Gallagher (thumb), Carey Price (concussion) and Phillip Danault (concussion)… Gallagher lamented that the first series between the Leafs and the Canadiens in 42 years will be played in empty arenas. “You’re really sad that the fans can’t be in the building for this,” Gallagher said. “I’ve been a part of this rivalry for nine years and it never gets old. The fans are so passionate, they are so excited. It’s going to be great for us as players to be a part of it. We will feel the emotion of the fans. It’s going to be really moving, it’s going to be intense, competitive, it’s going to be fun to watch for sure, but having fans in the building and creating that little bit of atmosphere would make things even better.
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