Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is demanding more physicality from his players ahead of the start of the NHL regular season. With playoff success the sole focus, Keefe is raising the stakes for Toronto's stars.
- It's pretty clear that Sheldon Keefe is raising the bar for the Leafs this season. Now, I know that's something that we say every single year. We think about the documentary, and yada, yada. But Sheldon Keefe, stopping practice and kind of digging into the players a little more, saying that they need to dig in more, that they need to be more physical. The emphasis on physicality is kind of, you know, turns on a light bulb for me. Because those are things that are successful where? In the playoffs.
Last year, the emphasis was trying to score more playoff style goals. Yes, the curl drag snipes and the one-on-one geeks are solid. But it's the deflections. It's the scoring on second and third opportunities. It's those scrums in front of the goalie. Those are the goals that you have to try to score in the playoffs when things are-- when things are being crammed down a lot. So it's interesting that we're going from there to this year of the emphasis being on physicality, finishing checks, being-- being harder to play against for everyone.
And I'm pretty sure that has been for everyone. I mean, I'm even starting to notice Nylander being more physical. And Nylander has always been a player that has gotten some bad rap when it comes to his physicality and how hard he forward checks. But from everyone-- I feel like everyone is kind of bought into this idea of being more physical. And it also helps at the least have brought in players like Zach Aston-Reese and Nic Aube-Kubel, who are-- your high producers when it comes to hits. Because at the end of the day, that can be the big difference.
One of the best goals of last season was-- was from that top line of Matthews, Marner and Bunting. And the whole thing started with a huge hit from Matthews in the corner that forced to turn over. Those moments, especially in the playoffs, can be those turning points that can lead to a win. Either win of a game or the win of an actual series. Now, that's difficult for us to say because we haven't seen a Leafs series win in the longest time. But hopefully, this is the year where it happens. And if the Leafs are able to take that mentality of last year, scoring playoff goals, and this year, bringing more physicality, this could be it. This could be the year where they finally get something done.
Whether it's one round, two rounds, three rounds, or maybe the entire way. I know Dubas is talking about the idea they're not just trying to win a single round. I don't know about you. That's kind of my bar. I just want to see at least one win. And if being physical is the way to go. And I think there have been years, and years, and years of examples of that being the case, I think that's something the Leafs need to embody into their core and into their. Culture because at the end of the day, it's all about the playoffs this season.
- Except take.