Maple Leafs keep Alex Kerfoot on the top line for Game 4 as Jack Campbell chats up his teammates on the ice to keep the good vibes going

BRANDON, Fla. — Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe will keep Alex Kerfoot on the first line alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner when their first-round playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning resumes on Sunday.
The Lightning used the line of Alex Killorn, Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli against Michael Bunting, Matthews and Marner and were effective through two periods of play and limited Toronto’s top line to no scoring chances or shot attempts through 40 minutes.
That prompted Keefe to swap Kerfoot back onto the top line to begin the third period of their 5-2 win against the Lightning in Game 3, while moving Bunting further down the lineup.
“I thought that line had a hard time last night,” Keefe said. “It’s coming back from an injury and you’re also coming in playing in the playoffs for the first time, especially when you’re going to play on that line, it’s not easy minutes.”
Bunting missed the first game of the series with an undisclosed injury and returned for Game 2 and scored his first postseason goal. With his top line needing help, Keefe went to Kerfoot shortly after he made a mistake while on the penalty kill that led to Tampa’s first goal of the game in Game 3.
“He made a bit of …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs defence for the playoffs likely to look different from game to game

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted that it’s been a bit of a debate as to what his team’s top six defencemen are for the upcoming NHL playoffs.
“It’s a daily discussion and I don’t know that we ever reach a solution,” Keefe said on Wednesday. “When we finished the meeting we kind of push it to the next day, to be honest. That’s where we’re really at.”
All season, the Maple Leafs have experimented with different pairs and combinations. They also acquired newcomers Mark Giordano and Ilya Lyubushkin, who have stepped into everyday roles with the club.
With one game to go in the regular season before the playoffs begin, it’s unlikely that the final contest will bring any clarity to the matter. In fact, the look on defence is likely to change from Game 1 to Game 2 should it not yield a desired result.
“All of our guys will have to stay ready, Keefe said. “Getting (Jake) Muzzin and (Rasmus) Sandin healthy goes a long way to that. But these will continue to be daily discussions for us. I don’t think they’re going to end once the playoffs begin.”
Sandin, who has been out of the lineup since Mar. 19 with a knee injury in not expected to play in the regular season finale this week, makin …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Ilya Mikheyev deserving of an extended look on Maple Leafs’ second line, despite demotion creating the opportunity

One day after Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe demoted William Nylander to the team’s third line to skate with checking forwards David Kampf and Pierre Engvall, he kept the trio together for the team’s 5-2 win against the Florida Panthers.
The player who stood to gain the most from this move is Ilya Mikheyev, who moved up to the second line to play with linemates John Tavares and Alex Kerfoot in the third period of Saturday’s 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
Mikheyev scored his career-high 14th goal of the season while in a top-six assignment in a 5-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday  and he did it in just his 36th game of the season. He is just one goal shy of matching his combined goal count for his first two seasons in the NHL.
“He’s making good on these breakaways, this is a good development for him and for us,” Keefe said of Mikheyev’s latest goal.
The Russian forward has never been shy of chances to score. His explosive speed has allowed him to get to the net with ease, while being able to backcheck if things go awry.
But he had difficulty in the …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs get more of the same from Mrazek in Heritage Classic loss to Sabres

HAMILTON, ON – Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe elected to give Petr Mrazek another shot in goal after a disastrous performance on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. And for 45 minutes and 16 seconds, it looked like the goaltender was about to do right by his coach’s decision.
But it all came undone when Vinne Hinostroza scored his second goal of the game after his sharp-angle shot went right through the goaltender to give the Buffalo Sabres a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“He just put it down and it squeezed through my arm,” Mrazek said of the goal. “I knew he was going to shoot it, I think I was just too high up and went down on the shot.”
The Maple Leafs fell to the Sabres 5-2 in the 2022 NHL Heritage Classic at Tim Horton’s Field on Sunday. Mrazek was given the start in goal after he was pulled on Thursday in favour of rookie goaltender Erik Kallgren, who ended up making his unexpected NHL debut.
Given the Swede’s impressive performance in relief, there was much debate as to which goaltender should go in net on Sunday. With Jack Campbell out with a rib injury, and Kallgren still inexperienced, Keefe chose to go back to Mrazek. He cited …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Petr Mrazek to start in goal for Maple Leafs against Buffalo Sabres on Sunday

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has elected to give Petr Mrazek another chance.
The veteran goaltender will start in goal when the Maple Leafs visit the Buffalo Sabres in the 2022 NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on there that make it obvious for us to give Petr another chance to go back in,” Keefe said of the decision.
The topic of starting goaltender for the outdoor game was seemingly moot on Thursday morning when the Maple Leafs announced that a rib injury would keep goaltender Jack Campbell out of the lineup for at least two weeks.
However, Mrazek struggled in his first start as “the guy” in net against the Arizona Coyotes. He allowed four goals on 12 shots before Keefe pulled the chute and forced callup backup Erik Kallgren into his NHL debut.
Down 4-1 in the second period at the time of Mrazek’s pull, the Leafs came back and forced overtime before falling to the Arizona Coyotes 5-4.
Kallgren was lauded by Keefe for his calm and poise at the net. He made 10 saves on 11 shots and helped pull Mrazek out of a losing situation.
“Kallgren showed us, very well, that he …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Ondrej Kase to miss third straight game for Maple Leafs with upper-body injury

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe says Ondrej Kase is dealing with an upper-body injury and will miss his third consecutive game with the ailment when his team hosts the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
“I think he’s going to get more tests and things like that and things done here today,” Keefe said of Kase. “He got through practice yesterday and felt good but not in a position where he was going to play tonight, so we’re going to use the time to get a little more of a sense of what might be happening.”
Kase has missed several stretches this season due to various injuries and his most recent absence came as a bit of a surprise when the speedy forward took part in the team’s morning skate against the Washington Capitals on Monday but did not take part in the game later in the evening.
Kase has 11 goals and 23 points in 44 games. When healthy, he’s become a dependable and versatile forward who has played on Toronto’s top three lines. He most recently got a look on Maple Leafs’ second line with John Tavares and William Nylander, as Keefe attempted a new look to get the latter two going offensively.
That role …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs’ Sheldon Keefe says Auston Matthews ‘feeling pretty good’ following injury

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said forward Auston Matthews is “feeling pretty good” following his injury in the third period of Monday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It’s a really good sign,” Keefe said. “As far as his status in terms of practising tomorrow, we’ll see how he comes in tomorrow but today was a very good day.”
Matthews was injured in the final minute of the third period when he took an inadvertent knee to the back of his head by Hurricanes defenceman Brett Pesce and did not finish the game. The star forward did not skate on Tuesday, but was scheduled to take the day off due to his participation in last weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities.
“There was a pretty good sense by the time he left (last night) that it wasn’t necessarily going to be a head injury,” Keefe added. “But with the nature of the hit that he took, you’re going to continue to be cautious to make sure he’s feeling good before he gets back on the ice.”
Matthews scored two goals on Monday and hit the 30-goal plateau in a season for the sixth time in his career. There was an early sense at practice that the team didn’t plan o …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Sheldon Keefe’s never satisfied mentality could take Leafs to the next level

What kind of coach do you think of when I say Sheldon Keefe’s name?
The 41-year-old has been the Maple Leafs’ bench boss for just over two years and carries a 139-86-38 record in the regular season. However, the one hump he’s yet to get the team over is the first round.
Keefe has done it in the AHL, winning a Calder Cup with the Toronto Marlies in 2018. But in the NHL, he’s only been able to have regular season success.
When I think of Keefe as a coach, I think of someone who’s never satisfied.

Keefe not satisfied despite winning pic.twitter.com/qOxnZiIbSP
— . (@_marlanderthews) February 10, 2021

If you remember back to the All or Nothing series, there was a part where Keefe felt like he’s losing the team. Toronto was winning games, but not in the ways that he wanted.
He preached playing the right way.
That might be playing in systems, having compete, or just making the correct play. Keefe makes it known if he doesn’t like his teams performance, even if it’s a win.

Leafs have won eight of their last nine games, but Keefe not fully satisfied with the play.
“We’ve been getting a lot of points here as of late. We know we’ve got to play better.”
— David Alter (@dalter) November 14, 2021

On the Maple Leafs’ most recent road trip, Toronto lost a lead quite a few times. Keefe, though, thought the team played well in the circumstances.
“No.” Keefe said after Saturday’s win over the Blues when asked if he was concerned with the amount of leads given up on the road trip. “It’s not indicative of who we’ve been all season long. I think each game has had its different circumstances, and I also think we’re ju …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Raptors coach Nick Nurse shares his coaching philosophy

Raptors coach Nick Nurse shares his coaching philosophy

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has been leading the team since 2018, and has a career record of 138-88 to show for it  He has come a long way in the coaching realm, and the NBA champion he’s earned rave reviews as an in-game strategist and player developer. Nurse started his coaching career at […]
Raptors coach Nick Nurse shares his coaching philosophy – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Alaa Alarashi / Raptors HQ

How did Pascal Siakam’s return change the Toronto Raptors’ scheme?

How did Pascal Siakam’s return change the Toronto Raptors’ scheme?

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse had a plan to insert Pascal Siakam back into the starting lineup, and it was very on-brand. He took the progressive route, threw positional basketball to the winds, and got creative enough to play him at the center position over Precious Achiuwa against the Brooklyn Nets.  From a personnel […]
How did Pascal Siakam’s return change the Toronto Raptors’ scheme? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Avishai Sol / Raptors HQ