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KOSHAN: Observations, thoughts with Maple Leafs’ first week in the books

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One week down.

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The Maple Leafs will start a busy stretch when the San Jose Sharks go to Scotiabank Enviornment for a uncommon Friday-night tilt, and Toronto will take the ice having gained 5 of a doable eight factors via its first 4 video games.

The Leafs’ 2-1-1 file isn’t dangerous, however it’s not spectacular. It’s a bunch that already has had a few classes in what can occur when there’s not sufficient sustained exercise across the opponent’s web. Twice the Leafs have misplaced due to the play of the enemy goalie, although basic supervisor Kyle Dubas has paid sufficient gamers who ought to have the ability to hurdle previous such obstacles. It’s a development that shouldn’t proceed with this bunch.

The Leafs will return to apply on Thursday after getting a day without work on Wednesday, with their subsequent three-day span between video games not till Dec. 20-22. Plenty of hockey is on the way in which.

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Listed below are some ideas and observations from the Leafs’ preliminary strides into the 2021-22 common season:

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1. It’s Auston’s present

Not that we essentially wanted a reminder, however we acquired one on Monday evening: The Leafs are Auston Matthews’ staff, interval.

Mitch Marner can dazzle, captain John Tavares is diligent and William Nylander has taken steps to develop into a whole participant, however Matthews is on one other degree. It’s one that’s not shared by many within the Nationwide Hockey League.

The actual fact Matthews dominated towards the New York Rangers in his first sport, when nearly everybody else on the ice had the advantage of pre-season video games and the beginning of the common season, sums it up. Matthews did the whole lot however put the puck within the web, although you’ll be able to depend on him to start out doing that with consistency. Even with the delayed starting of his season, the 24-year-old ought to rating 50 targets for the primary time in his NHL profession.

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As for Marner and Tavares, be happy to interrupt out. One help for Marner and two for Tavares is ugly, although there’s no method it’s not going to start out dropping for both of them.

Goalie Jack Campbell has been excellent so far, playing a lot of minutes in the Leafs’ crease with fellow netminder Petr Mrazek shelved. USA TODAY SPORTS
Goalie Jack Campbell has been glorious thus far, enjoying loads of minutes within the Leafs’ crease with fellow netminder Petr Mrazek shelved. USA TODAY SPORTS

2. Soup is scorching, scorching, scorching

When you carried a smidgen of doubt whether or not Jack Campbell would choose up the place he left off following his total efficiency within the shortened 2020-21 season, it’s gone.

Via Tuesday, solely two goalies — Andrei Vasilevskiy of the two-time champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Philipp Grubauer of the enlargement Seattle Kraken — had performed extra minutes than Campbell. But, a minimum of 29 goaltenders throughout the NHL had allowed greater than the 4 targets which have been scored on Campbell.

The Leafs’ intent in signing Petr Mrazek to a three-year contract in July was to make use of a tandem in web. That’s on maintain after Mrazek suffered a groin damage in his Leafs debut final Thursday in Ottawa.

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The Leafs have already got began managing Campbell’s apply time, cautious of overworking him and attempting to make sure that he received’t wind up on the sideline with an damage.

As soon as Mrazek is again, the membership will financial institution on him enjoying capably sufficient to offer Campbell some relaxation. Regardless of, the early indications are that the online will belong to Campbell as soon as the playoffs begin subsequent spring.

And as for the truth that Campbell is eligible totally free company subsequent summer season, it’s in all probability finest to not get caught up in that now. The difficulty might be on the Leafs’ plate quickly sufficient.

Leafs winger Nick Ritchie still has no points despite playing on the top line. USA TODAY SPORTS
Leafs winger Nick Ritchie nonetheless has no factors regardless of enjoying on the highest line. USA TODAY SPORTS

3. Ritchie’s clock is ticking

The concept Nick Ritchie would escape of the gates with an appropriate begin after he acquired his sport going within the pre-season died quick.

4 pictures on objective and no factors via 4 video games shouldn’t be good, and needless to say it’s not as if Ritchie was buried on the fourth line and wasn’t getting the minutes.

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The query now, with Matthews again, is what sort of endurance Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe can have with Ritchie. If there aren’t productive returns of some type after just a few video games with Matthews at centre, Keefe should at the least consider dropping Ritchie and, maybe, giving Michael Bunting a chance to play with the staff’s two finest forwards.

The Leafs are free to say what they need about Ritchie — that he’s massive and makes sensible performs with the puck — however the reality stays he hasn’t taken grip of the prospect he’s getting and run with it. Keefe has to hope that Matthews can draw one thing extra out of the left winger.

Jake Muzzin and the rest of the Leafs defence corps has been rock solid, giving up the third-fewest shots on goal in the NHL. USA TODAY SPORTS
Jake Muzzin and the remainder of the Leafs defence corps has been rock stable, giving up the third-fewest pictures on objective within the NHL. USA TODAY SPORTS

4. An ‘A’ for the ‘D’

There needs to be little argument with the Leafs’ defensive effort.

For essentially the most half, Toronto has been structurally sound, permitting a median of 28 pictures a sport (in all conditions). Via video games on Tuesday, solely the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks gave up fewer on common.

What’s extra, the Leafs have allowed simply 4 targets at five-on-five. Come near retaining that up they usually’re going to win on most nights. One oddity: The defence pair of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl has been on the ice for all 4 of these five-on-five targets towards.

“There’s room for enchancment,” Muzzin stated. “I believe we could be a little bit extra environment friendly with the puck in our zone. However we’re working arduous, we’re battling, so I like the place we’re at.”

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