TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters talks about the Maple Leafs, who skated in two groups at the Ford Performance Center on Thursday.
For the first time at this year’s training camp, Auston Matthews did line rushes. He skated between Nick Ritchie and his usual teammate Mitch Marner.
“It’s good to be on the same ice as Auston and he seems to be doing well,” said Ritchie. “It’s a great presence and so skillful and this shot is lethal.”
Matthews is returning from off-season wrist surgery. There is no timeline for his return to the game, but the 24-year-old center has expressed optimism about his preparation for opening night.
“He looks good,” Marner said. “He looks great when he’s outside and the wrist doesn’t seem to bother him too much right now.”
But, as has been the case in recent days, Matthews left the ice halfway through main training.
“He continues to improve,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “It’s about building the strength of the wrist to the point where it’s confident receiving passes, leaning into shots and of course face-offs and contacts. The fact that we’ve seen him all come out the days without setbacks is a good thing. ”
It’s good for Ritchie too. He’s new to the squad and readily admits he’s never played with guys like Marner and Matthews before.
“They are some of the most talented guys in the league and it’s cool to be on the same ice as them and learn things from them,” said the 25-year-old.
They’ve only played one preseason game together, but so far Ritchie enjoys chemistry with Marner.
“He makes so many great games. He never panics with it. He’s always in the right place and a dream to play with.”
Keefe remains confident that the first row will click with Ritchie filling the post left vacant by Zach Hyman.
“For the size he is (6ft 3in, 236lb) and the physique he brings, for those who don’t know him as well, you are going to be surprised at the quality of his hands, how good his shot is, how good he is at making plays in tight spaces, ”Keefe said while noting that many great men struggle in these areas.“ He’s a guy who can do that and that. is [why] I think it can complement Mitch and Auston well. With Mitch, we see it now, but we haven’t had much time with Auston yet. “
Prior to the start of main training, new assistant coach Spencer Carbery performed power play drills with Matthews, Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly. It was the first time that the five members of the upper unit from Toronto had worked together at the camp.
“You just have to walk some of the roads,” Tavares said, “and get a feel for things and what Spence is looking to implement here. We talk about that a little bit every day. [It was] it’s nice to have the five guys there to go around and get a feel for things and the different roles and positions. “
The biggest change in positioning is that Marner goes from the flank to the middle of the ice.
“He’s so good when he’s in the middle of the ice,” said Tavares, “hardly anyone is harder to stop because he’s so hard to read and so unpredictable. the flanks.”
“I hope it brings some guys to me,” said Marner, “and leaves seams open and makes it harder for teams [who will] do not know who to take. We are going to feel and use our creativity. “
Keefe loves the way Marner embraced the new mission.
“He’s working on it, asking questions, bringing in representatives, so that’s the most positive thing I’ve seen,” said the coach.
The new team, minus Matthews, will get their first real test Friday night in the annual Blue vs White game at Scotiabank Arena. The scrum will consist of three 20-minute periods, but the last will be entirely devoted to the work of the special teams.
Wednesday was the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, which honors lost children and residential school survivors, their families and communities. Leafs players marked the occasion by wearing orange shirts with the words “Every Child Counts”.
“I grew up with a lot of native people playing lacrosse,” Tavares said. “I was a lot in this community and this culture and these great people and I learned a lot through the game of lacrosse itself and I fell in love with it so to me that made a little more sense. this should have significant meaning for everyone because of what happened and how we can learn from it and not only reconcile but make indigenous peoples and their culture and who they are a major part of our society and of us as Canadians. ”
Tavares played competitive lacrosse in his first season in the Ontario Hockey League. He is the nephew of John Tavares, who is the leading scorer in the history of the National Lacrosse League.
How Did Playing Lacrosse Help His Hockey Career?
“People talk about hand-eye coordination, but the most important thing I found was the physical nature of the lacrosse,” said the Leafs captain.
“It’s just a little higher than hockey. Your ability to chess, move through traffic, and make contact with and without the ball, seemed to really help me in small areas around the ice, around the net, just finding ways to create openings and shoot or protect the puck and create games or extend games. “
On Thursday, Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds addressed the racist Andrei Deniskin taunt directed at black American Jalen Smereck during a Ukrainian Hockey League game.
“Knowing that I have to play and that my children can play hockey [and] to deal with these kinds of incidents, I can understand why people of color don’t want to play hockey, ”said Simmonds. “I can understand why parents are completely afraid to involve their children in this sport. I am the same too. I’ve been through a lot of these things myself and I don’t even know if I want my kids to play hockey to be honest enough. “
Smereck will play a game next week with HC Donbass Donetsk, but sees no future in the UHL.
Deniskin has been suspended 13 games, which is most permitted by the league’s code of conduct. The International Ice Hockey Federation could still impose its own sanction
“If I owed it to me, you have two choices: you will either face us [and] We’re gonna screw you up – or you’re banned for life. It’s got to a point where it’s sickening, it’s disgusting. The way this guy did what he did, without any hesitation, hurts my stomach, ”said Simmonds, who is with the Hockey Diversity Alliance. “It’s disgusting, honestly. Quite frankly, I’m sick of talking about this stuff because it keeps happening.
“The IIHF, UHL, whatever governing body there is, needs to do something about it. This kid needs to be banned. I think that’s the problem. You know, things like that – these are happening and it’s not like it just happens. [by accident or] it is a unique piece. We’ve seen it happen a million times before and the punishments certainly don’t match the crime. “
Leafs training lines: