TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who trained at the SAP Center in San Jose on Thursday ahead of Friday’s game against the Sharks.
Nick Ritchie was again among the last players on the ice after Leafs training. After training at home, he will usually spend time with the team’s player development staff. On Thursday, it was head coach Sheldon Keefe who offered some one-on-one guidance. The focus was on changing the angle of his shot.
“Sheldon knows this too,” Ritchie said. “He helped today. He does not do it all the time because there are other guys to do it, but along the way, those people here are not.”
Ritchie have not scored through 21 matches this season.
“We want him to score and he’s capable of that,” Keefe said. “I am convinced that once he has scored, it will open up for him. I think he is a guy who is able to score big goals for us at big times. I think it’s coming. We have to keep going. to support him through this. “
Ritchie was not among the 11 Leafs who picked up a point in Wednesday’s win, but teammates went out of their way to praise him afterwards. Specifically, they highlighted his screen on Jonathan Quick in front of the Jason Spezza power-play goal.
“Just an incredible display,” Auston Matthews said. “It’s hard to beat Quickie one-on-one when he sees it.”
Okay, they have to keep microphoneing Auston Matthews up
His reaction to the Spezza goal was amazing pic.twitter.com/wiFbF4Bors
– Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 25, 2021
Late in the blowout victory, the Leafs players seemed to be doing their best to try to put Ritchie up. Orangeville, Ont., Natives ended the night with three shots on net.
“He’s had a lot of good opportunities,” Mitch Marner said. “It’s hard when it does not fall your way, especially for a player of his talent and caliber. So just make sure we keep holding on to it and tell him it’s coming. He’s done a lot “great things for us, especially the last couple of games that have been around the net and made it difficult for goalkeepers. His time is coming.”
“The support from his teammates goes a long way,” Keefe said. “He also needs the support of the coaching staff to help keep him focused on other things. I think he has done good things.”
Ritchie leads the Leafs in hits. On Sunday in New York, Ritchie was effective on the pre-check and made a nice pass to David Kampf, who then fed Ondrej Kase to an insurance goal against the Islanders. The secondary assist represents Ritchie’s only equal strength this season.
– Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 22, 2021
After scoring 15 goals in 56 games with Boston last season, Ritchie did not receive a qualifying offer from the Bruins and signed a $ 5 million two-year deal with his hometown team. He got the first look at the first-line spot vacated by Zach Hyman, but it did not click and Ritchie was quickly relegated.
“Last season he was at a career-high pace,” Keefe said. “He comes into this group here and he wants to stand out. You can just imagine what he can go through mentally. I think he has handled it very well … We have won many matches so I think , it helps reduce some of the pressure. “
“I’ve had good chances lately,” Ritchie said. “A couple more last night in the third and a really nice one at the end. We win a lot of hockey games and that’s the focus. If I get a goal, it would be nice, but winning is more important.”
During this road trip, Ritchie has started both games on the third line with Kampf and Kase. Both players are doubtful for Friday’s showdown in San Jose.
Kampf left Wednesday’s match in the first period after taking a high blow from Rasmus Kupari. He was kept out of the rest of the game for safety. The 26-year-old was back on the ice at Thursday’s training.
“It was a good day for him,” Keefe said. “We will see how he is tomorrow when he wakes up and comes to the pitch. We will call it a match time decision, I think, but it was a very positive day for him.”
Kampf has had a big impact on the Leafs this season, allowing Keefe to build a reliable line of control that neutralizes top resistance and absorbs defensive zone starts.
“He has brought stability to our group,” noted veteran forward Jason Spezza. “Stability through the middle of the ice. He plays the right way. He’s a very selfless hockey player. He’s a team player. He’s a great boy off the ice. He’s an extremely hard worker. You do not see the work he puts in. into the gym. ”
Kase missed training on Thursday.
“It’s a maintenance day,” Keefe said. “We’ll see how he does tomorrow morning.”
Kase plays an aggressive game and was described as a “kamikaze fighter” by teammate Wayne Simmonds on Wednesday morning. Though admirable, it’s playing style takes its toll on a guy.
“He’s been through a lot with how he plays,” Keefe said. “We want to give him a good day today so things can work out for him and take it from there.”
Michigan native Jack Campbell has plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
“So much,” the 29-year-old said. “My family, of course. I’m spoiled with them. And I’m just playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. My team. My teammates. Yeah, it’s just incredible.”
Campbell may also be grateful for a little more rest. He was absent from Thursday’s training session as the team continues to manage his workload. Joseph Woll starts on Friday.
“It’s not so much to miss the match tomorrow,” said Keefe, “it takes a day like today – an extra day off does not make the rest of the team [get] – and what it can do for his body and his mind. We think it’s just as important to find those days. “
Campbell has gotten parts of the training away, but rarely stays completely away from the ice. Often he will work with goalkeeping coach Steve Briere and then leave. On Thursday, he did not hit the ice at all.
Campbell leads all NHL starters in save percentage (0.943) and play (17). The team wants to keep him in a rhythm without overworking him.
“It’s a challenge,” Keefe acknowledged. “I do not know there is any real threshold there that you say is too much or the right amount. It is to know that you have to give him time. It is just the fair thing to do and the smart thing to do know how long the season is. “
The Leafs planned to go with a tandem system this year, but Petr Mrazek has only played in two games due to a groin injury. He was able to get through a full training session on Thursday and is approaching a return.
The Leafs have won 12 of their last 14 games and scored a season-high six goals on Wednesday, but there are no plans to reward the boys with a day off during this California road trip.
“We really just tried to stay in our routine and stay really business friendly,” the coach explained. “We have tried to be very focused on this trip, especially to stay in a rhythm and a routine. We looked at maybe planning a day off. [today or Saturday], but we just felt on a trip like this where the weather is good and there are some distractions and things, [it’s best to] just keep the guys busy and keep working. ”
The players do not seem to mind. Many were out due to extra work after Thursday’s 30-minute workout was completed.
“Winning is a lot of fun,” Spezza said. “It creates a fun atmosphere around the room. It makes training fun. When you win, it seems like everyone is having a good time. Clearly, our team comes closer together as a group and got a lot of chemistry through these victories. It creates a belief. We win close matches. We win matches the right way. Special teams have been good and it’s usually details. And I think it leads to a happy group and you want to keep it going. When you if you win, you want to keep it going, because when you lose a few, it’s hard to get back in the winning column. We know that. We’ve already been there this year. So we want to keep the positivity running. ”
After playing in New York on Sunday, the team traveled to Los Angeles on Monday. It was not a day off, but the players did not take the ice.
Matthews was called to board by Kings striker Blake Lizotte late in the first period on Wednesday. Before the second period began, the nominated Lady Byng Trophy made a shot on the road for Judge Trevor Hanson.
“I did not think it was a punishment,” Matthews said. “I wanted an explanation. I thought I was just about to finish my check. I know he happens to be a little bit less of a guy. [5-foot-9, 170 pounds] compared to me [6-foot-3, 205 pounds], but I wanted an explanation of what he saw so I might be able to learn from it. I do not beat many guys. I do not throw my body around too much. Yes, I do not know. “
Keefe also did not like the call.
“He takes a lot of those kinds of hits,” the coach remarked. “Boys talk about him.”
Auston Matthews with a crushing blow to Blake Lizotte. pic.twitter.com/1n9VubwtwW
– alberto (@twistedleafs) November 25, 2021
Although the Leafs did not like the call, they loved watching the physical from their No. 1 center.
“When he does, of course we know as a line and a team that he’s really committed to that game,” Marner said. “It’s good to see him do that.”
Matthews produces 2.57 hits per. 60 minutes so far this season, which is down from a career high of 3.05 last season.
“It’s great to see him throw his weight around,” said linebacker Michael Bunting. “He’s a big boy and really strong out there. I notice that when he gets in the corners, he’s able to win pretty much every puck match.”
Lines for Thursday’s training:
Bunting – Matthews – Marner
Kerfoot – Tavares – Nylander
Ritchie – Camp – Simmonds
Engvall – Semyonov – Spezza
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – All
Sandin – Liljegren