‘Nothing’s on the table’ if the Leafs don’t turn things around soon –

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While the Leafs got off to a slow start last year, Sheldon Keefe separated Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner before Game 7 of the season in Raleigh.

Matthews scored his first goal in the subsequent loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but Toronto won the next game and quickly turned things around. So why didn’t the coach make a similar move this year?

“At the end of the day, I just feel like last season these guys developed even greater chemistry than they ever had and I’m not at the point yet where I have feel like the solution for us to start is to separate the guys who had some of the best chemistry in the league last season and took us to great heights in the regular season,” Keefe explained. “These guys are determined to work together and I’m still about to give them the opportunity.”

Matthews remains stuck on a 5-on-5 goal. Marner has just two and was briefly benched after a pair of costly turnovers Sunday in Anaheim.

“On the road trip, despite the puck not necessarily going in the net, there were some really positive signs for that. [line] and I want to continue to see that play out,” Keefe said. progress.”

Last year, Matthews had just undergone wrist surgery and scored just once in the first six games he played. This year, he is again bitten by a snake to start the year.

“It was a little slower start than I would have liked,” admitted the defending Hart Trophy winner. “But I think in the last two games I’ve been able to get some attacking rhythm, pick it up a bit. I think there’s another level for me and everyone in this room. “

Toronto is 29th overall in goals at 5-5.

Should Keefe separate Matthews and Marner?

Last season, when the Maple Leafs started slow, Sheldon Keefe separated Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Should he do it again? TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston joins Mark Masters to share his thoughts.

The Leafs have won three of four home games this season.

“Nice to be back here,” Keefe said. “We played some really good hockey when we were here, so that’s comforting. We know our supporters will be there to support us if we give them a reason to support us. It is certain that we have to go out and perform. go out and play a better game of hockey. We are certainly motivated to do so. It’s about clearing your head mentally and just getting out there and playing.

Players aren’t worried about fan base turmoil.

“Listen, I took my dogs for a walk yesterday and met a few fans, and everyone was positive,” winger William Nylander said.

“I love it,” said Toronto native Mark Giordano. “People are passionate about our team here. People are excited that we’re doing well. I would much rather play in a city that cares and is really involved in the day-to-day operations of the team and following us. is a passionate fan base. Sure, you hear things, you see things, and you watch things, but there’s nothing quite like playing in a Canadian market. It’s awesome.

Keefe: ‘The fans will be there to support us, if we give them a reason to support us’

Sheldon Keefe and Mark Giordano talk about their excitement to be back in Toronto after a long trip to the West Coast, the boost the fans will give them and the importance of starting the game strong tonight with the Flyers in a consecutive game. .

After a loss at San Jose on Thursday, Keefe said he didn’t think changing his defensive pairings would make a difference. Sunday in Anaheim, the coach felt he had no choice.

“We’re trying to find the right mix,” Keefe said. “Obviously, [Morgan] Rielly and [T.J.] Brodie, we like him a lot, but we just found our way through some of the other pairs we needed to stabilize defensively. »

So Brodie is now playing with Justin Holl, who has been a positive player in just one game this season. Rielly, who moved to the right to partner Rasmus Sandin on Sunday, will start Wednesday’s game with Victor Mete, who has been a good takedown the past two games. Filip Kral, who played just 8:07 in Anaheim, will be the odd one out. Sandin will find Giordano.

Holl is the only right-handed defender currently available. Brodie is the southpaw, who is most comfortable on his left side so it’s far from an ideal setup.

“Not having him on the right side creates challenges for us,” Keefe said, “but we just think he could help Justin Holl and that was a good couple for us not just the other night in Anaheim , but last season. So we had to deal with that and then we try to find the right mix after that.”

Finding reliable pairs has been difficult since Jake Muzzin, who played with Holl, suffered a neck injury on Oct. 17. Muzzin joined the team at the end of the California trip, as he was seeing a specialist in Los Angeles. . It’s still unclear how long the burly defender will be out.

“Significant absence,” Keefe said. “On the ice, of course. You see our penalty kill hasn’t been the same. When you lose a guy like that that you lean on so much, everyone has to play more and in different situations than what maybe they’re used to it and that’s part of what we go through a bit at the end.”

Toronto’s penalty kill has dropped to 22nd in the league at 75.7%.

The Leafs also miss Muzzin’s presence in the locker room. Keefe once described the 2014 Stanley Cup champion as the “conscience” of the team.

“It’s something internally that we’ve been talking about,” Keefe said, “because there’s an absence there that others are trying to find their way around to kind of replace that.”

Timothy Liljegren, who underwent hernia surgery the day before training camp, is eligible to be released from long-term injured reserve for Saturday’s game against Boston. He’s expected to play against the Bruins, which will give the coaching staff another right-shooting option.

Leafs Ice Chips: Mete partners with Rielly; Liljegren returns on Saturday

TSN’s Mark Masters points to the changes the Maple Leafs are making on defense as they seek to bounce back from a disastrous trip to the West Coast. Plus the health of Jake Muzzin and Timothy Liljegren and the value they will add once back in lineup.

Pontus Holmberg will make his National Hockey League debut against the Flyers. He politely declined a request for an interview Wednesday morning. The 23-year-old Swede is still learning English.

“It seems to be getting better,” Keefe noted. “A lot of times you get these guys, especially the ones coming from the miners, they’re going to tell you they understand everything, but you want to make sure it’s clear.”

This is why Holmberg will leave between Pierre Engvall and Calle Jarnkrok on an entirely Swedish line.

“I want it to be as comfortable as possible,” Keefe said, “but I also think it complements these guys well.”

Holmberg has just two assists in seven games for the Marlies, but the Leafs believe he can make an impact.

“He’s smart with the puck,” said defenseman Rasmus Sandin. “He makes really smart decisions. He does everything, I feel like. He creates scoring chances not just for himself but for others. He’s still pissed that he didn’t score with the Marlies, but hopefully that will come today. He seems pretty calm today.”

What stands out from Nylander?

“His intelligence and the way he moves on the ice opening up and making little plays to open up the ice for the other guys. He’s a very smart player.

Leafs Ice Chips: Holmberg set for NHL debut

After Calle Järnkrok, Alex Kerfoot and William Nylander took turns as the Leafs’ third-line center during the team’s unsuccessful West Coast road trip, Sheldon Keefe turned to a new option. Pontus Holmberg has been recalled from the Marlies and will make his NHL debut against the Flyers on Wednesday. Mark Masters has more.

Projected lines for Wednesday’s game:

Bunting – Matthews – Marner

Kerfoot – Tavares – Nylander

Engvall – Holmberg – Jarnkrok


Rielly – Weather

Brodie Holl

Giordano Sandin

Samsonov begins


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