Mon. May 23rd, 2022

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Note Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, prepare for a strict ID check Saturday night.

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These are two teams that do not like what they have seen in the mirror, New York after its slow start, Toronto with trouble keeping drivers on this road trip. And both need to get out of it.

With picking points away, the Leafs have lost ground to Florida and Tampa Bay in their division, while Boston closes quickly. Coach Sheldon Keefe marked his team’s end on Broadway as “soft and pointless” against Rangers on Wednesday, but as he had not addressed the players in the hard turns after the game, he used Friday’s first training session since the 6-3 defeat to clarify to them and the media what he expects.

“We have been a team that is hard to play against when we were the best, a team that has established us among the best in the league,” he said without waiting for the first question after training. “It is through a foundation of physicality, foundation and structure. We continue to work on the consistency part, but my belief in this team has not changed in any way.

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“Our standards slipped the other night. I believe that through the way we have played, the type of players we have and what we are capable of, we have earned the right to have high expectations.”

But if Keefe felt awkward giving out to the press before his players, the latter knew they had messed up, a disturbing pattern in six straight internationals that went back to a downturn two weeks ago in Denver.

“I do not think he is wrong,” defender Morgan Rielly said. “The last four or five matches there have been some problems we have to clean up. We look back at the goals against, it just comes from the collapse of the D-zone, and the D-corps must take some responsibility to try to protect our net, keep guys away from our goalkeeper and work from there. “

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John Tavares will have a lot on his plate on Saturday, trying to use his platform as captain to call for accountability, get his own line with William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot to become more productive and not be traced by the now familiar tough reception he gets on a visit to his old team, which he left for the Leafs. Keefe and Tavares chatted after training.

“We have to tighten up; at certain points we have been in control and have not made it as difficult as we need to, ”said Tavares. “It’s situational awareness, not giving up momentum, being difficult on our end.”

When the islands need a meeting, they have often turned to their ‘Identity Line’, ex-Leaf Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Although that unit can hit, score and pre-check, it has had a tough time this year with so few home games, while the new UBS Arena was completed and in the shadow of the COVID-19 schedule and roster issues.

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Before the Islands home game Friday against Arizona, that line and their entire team did a little better, despite New York falling behind in the Metropolitan Division.

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“They’re christened it because they play a simple, straightforward game that embodies what the Islanders are all about,” Keefe said. “They come and they are physical. We played against them earlier this year (a possible 3-0 Toronto win) and we felt that.”

Without the last change, Keefe will have to wait and see if opposing number Barry Trotz uses the Identity trio against his bottom six or tries to close the Tavares group or Auston Matthews’.

“They trust that they are playing against any line,” Keefe noted. “All our players have to be prepared to play through it. Our guys are capable of that, but you have to be aware of them and their whole team. They have a lot more (healthy) players in their lineup than when we saw them. last.”

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MRAZEK GETS STARTED AGAINST ISLANDERS

There is no doubt that three games that have allowed five goals in the last two weeks have not looked good on Jack Campbell.

And eyebrows were raised Friday afternoon when Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe announced that Petr Mrazek would start Saturday against the Islanders despite Campbell having two days off, one of which was completely off the rink. But Keefe lowered the switch.
“You could call it a planned start. We just feel it’s important to get Petr back in. ”

Mrazek’s sporadic workload, partly caused by his two groin injuries, a long break in the schedule and the fine throw by Campbell that gave him an all-star playmaking, was not an issue before this road trip. But he lost 2-1 in Arizona, and with Campbell’s dive, it is imperative that he take advantage of opportunities like Saturday.

“We will definitely need Petr as the calendar turns into February,” Keefe said after the nine games the club postponed due to COVID-19 were rescheduled by the NHL this week. “Jack has been playing a lot, not necessarily the last few weeks, but you look at the overall workload and we’re looking for those pockets to give Jack rest and Petr an increased workload.”

Without saying so, Keefe sees winning conditions for Mrazek, where New York plays Friday night. Mrazek’s record is 2-2 with a save rate of 0.882, not what the club expected when he bought him for three years at $ 3.8 million per game. season.

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