Mike Babcock sings Matt Martin’s praises, Marlies shut out in second leg of back-to-back vs. IceCaps, Babcock staying positive after a disappointing road trip, and more in the links.
Leafs Notebook – Expansion Draft Update – March 6 (MLHS)
Here is a good example of the kind of non-descript shift that Babcock referenced when the team acquired Boyle. Babcock sends out the fourth line for a neutral zone faceoff and the Kings — with last change at home — counter with their top line. Boyle shadows Kopitar down the ice, digs the puck out along the wall, gets it out, and then gets the puck deep. Nothing happens on this shift, and that’s a win for Toronto.
Game #59 Review: St. John’s IceCaps 3 vs. Toronto Marlies 0 (MLHS)
The Toronto Marlies were shut out for the first time this season in the second leg of a weekend back-to-back against St. John’s. In an uninspired and mistake-ridden performance, the Marlies rarely looked likely to break the goose egg against an IceCaps team that averages over three goals and a save percentage below .900 with Sunday’s starter Yann Danis in net.
Leafs’ Babcock stays positive despite “lull” (TSN)
The atmosphere was upbeat as the Leafs worked out at home for the first time since returning from a tough California road trip. “I feel like it’s still pretty light,” said Kadri of the mood. “No one’s panicking, no one’s really feeling that much of the pressure. This is fun. This is the situation we want to be in.” So, it wasn’t quiet on the long plane ride home? “It’s tough to be quiet for that long,” Kadri said of the cross-continent trip, which ended early Saturday morning. “We just enjoy being around each other. Nobody’s hitting the panic button. We still know we’re a good team. If we play the right way we know we’re going to get these wins.”
Leafs will lean on youth in push for the postseason (TSN)
While he sheltered his rookies out of the gate, Babcock has them in the open now. That has spurred Marner to become a keen observer of how others play in the defensive zone as he continues to refine his own game. Marner meets with Babcock periodically for one-on-one sessions, but learning on the fly has had its own advantages. “[Babcock] puts a lot of trust in us, he believes in us in the d-zone and puts a lot of responsibility on that,” Marner said. “I think that’s what we all want and what we all need. He puts as much responsibility on us as he does for a guy who’s been playing for years, and it’s nice to feel that.”
Leafs coach Mike Babcock preaches victory (Toronto Sun)
Babcock’s plan is to keep Boyle between Matt Martin and Nikita Soshnikov on the fourth line, with the presence of Martin and Boyle also serving as a physical deterrent to foes who would target the rookies. “(Martin) doesn’t let anyone get smacked,” Babcock said. “We have a bunch of kids and I don’t want them to get cross-checked and abused. We haven’t had any of that. Now with Boyle here, suddenly that’s two big men. I thought their line was really good for us (in Anaheim).” Keeping the speedy Soshnikov in the mix ahead of the more powerful Josh Leivo is part of what the coach agreed were “tough decisions … but Soshnikov is really important to us. He’s on on our penalty-kill, plays really fast. That’s where he’s got the nod. I talked to Leivo today, he just has to keep humming. Just one of those situations where that’s what we’ve decided.
Joe Bowen set to hit 3,000-game milestone behind Leafs’ mic (Toronto Sun)
Len Bramson of Telemedia Sports introduced himself, said he’d heard Bowen’s audition tape, was impressed with his resume from working junior games in Sudbury and the AHL Nova Scotia Voyageurs and asked: ‘Would you like the Leafs job?’ Convinced this was a prank by his friend, overnight host Allan Davis at CJCL, the flagship Leaf station, Bowen just snorted. It was so late in the summer, months after Bowen sent his tape and the day after his mortgage was okayed on a new house in Halifax. “F— you,” Bowen boomed into the receiver, his pipes as powerful then as today at age 65. “I don’t need you being an a–hole.” There was silence and then Bramson politely repeated himself, with Bowen slowly realizing this call was for real.
[Paywall] Why the Leafs have won only five of their last 18 games (The Athletic)
It wasn’t supposed to be this way this year, mostly because few expected they’d even be here. But they are – and just like years past when they’ve flirted with the playoffs, it suddenly looks like it’s going to fall apart. But it also wasn’t supposed to be this way because this team is actually good. These aren’t the Randy Carlyle or Ron Wilson Leafs: This team can play. Their underlying metrics have been good all year. They blow leads seemingly every game, but the fact they have them so often is a clear sign of a solid hockey club.
Leafs scoring tracker: 10 biggest goals in franchise history (National Post)
All five games of that final were decided after regulation, the first four on goals from more expected sources: Sid Smith, Maurice Richard, Ted Kennedy and Harry Watson. A few minutes into overtime in Game 5, a pinching Barilko spotted a loose puck, dove forward from the face-off circle and — his body momentarily still in mid-air — backhanded the clinching shot over Canadiens goalie Gerry McNeil. It was, of course, the last goal he ever scored.
Leafs must ‘bear down’ after dismal California trip, says Babcock (National Post)
“You have lulls during the year. That’s the way it is,” Babcock said. “You want to feel sorry for yourself? Then the lull will continue. You want to dig in a little deeper and bear down, (then do it). Isn’t that life? Life mirrors sport, sport mirrors life. You want to feel bad for yourself, go home and mope? You’re not getting any better. “You want to get on to the next thing you can. That’s our opportunity right now and I’m confident we’ll do that.”
How that balance changes as the team changes and the rookies improve will be very interesting to watch. Will the goal be to raise the level of all three and maintain this balance or not? It is very possible to imagine a progression of Matthews’ line into more of a dominating force on the team. I think you might see a top line and a middle six, and an argument can be made that when William Nylander moves to Matthews’ line, that is closer to what is on the ice right now.
Maurice’s Babcock comments a mere deflection of Jets’ real problems (Sportsnet)
It was OK for Maurice to remind everyone that his team is the second-youngest team in the NHL (behind you-know-who). He might also have acknowledged that since taking over from Claude Noel in the 2014-2015 season he had Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Tyler Myers and Bryan Little before Babcock landed his best player, Auston Matthews. Maurice was, in fact, given Patrik Laine to add to a team that should be good enough to be a playoff regular. Babcock added Matthews to a team that was awful. Plus, Maurice had half a season to throw some of the garbage out.