Wednesday, December 1

BIG THANKS: Maple Leafs delves into initial win over Canadiens

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As much as the Maple Leafs need flash, it’s their blue collar and goalkeepers that will make the difference.


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A lack of those hurt them in the playoffs against Montreal last year, so putting that stamp on their home opening effort Wednesday against the same enemy at a full house was a must.

A new-looking grinder line from Pierre Engvall, Ondrej Kase and David Kampf was a factor as were Kampf and Justin Holl’s key shot blocks in a tense 5v3 penalty shootout in the 1:40 third period. which helped Jack Campbell preserve a 2-1 victory.

Engvall’s goal and William Nylander’s winner delighted 18,493 fans, who came to life in the third with the big kill and a minor kill of Nylander. It had been nearly 600 days since the Scotiabank Arena was full, while in that span, two playoff series ended in defeat in the same building with mostly artificial crowd noise. Although nearly half of the players on both teams in Game 7 are injured or have moved, there was great symbolism in coming out strong against the Habs in the first of Toronto’s three games in four days.


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Campbell, who endured a difficult summer for his role in the playoff disappointment, made seven early stops, mostly difficult, from a combination of poor rebounds and teammate errors before Jonathan Drouin scored at 2v1. It was a win for Drouin after a time out of the game last year dealing with personal anxiety issues.

Coach Sheldon Keefe doesn’t want the Leafs to use Auston Matthews’ three-game absence with a healing wrist as an excuse and made sure to mention in his morning report how well the team performs when he’s been out and that various changes of line in practice. and the exhibitions so far prepared the team to juggle online.

John Tavares, the last to be introduced before the game to the loudest applause, moved into Matthews’ place with Mitch Marner and newcomer Nick Ritchie.


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The line had its first chances on Jake Allen, but not until after two power plays flopped and lost, the house shook when Engvall scored just as an Alexander Romanov penalty ended, Ritchie provided the screen. Engvall, with three preseason goals, hit the post from within to open the second period and worked well setting up Czechs Kase and Kampf.

Maple Leafs 'Jake Muzzin (left) fights on the boards with Montreal Canadiens' Josh Anderson during Wednesday's game in Toronto.  DAN HAMILTON / USA TODAY SPORTS
Maple Leafs ‘Jake Muzzin (left) fights on the boards with Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson during Wednesday’s game in Toronto. DAN HAMILTON / USA TODAY SPORTS

The Leafs’ mantra through September was not to ignore what happened in the playoffs, but to channel their frustration into something positive.

“The guys were pissed off and we came to camp to work, not just to keep up,” defender Jake Muzzin said before the game. “There was a little bit of anger from some guys and we’re going to need it all season long.”


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“All of our players have an additional advantage,” added Keefe. “I have been capitalizing on that. The first day of camping was very difficult and exhausting for them, but they wanted it that way, to get ahead. They have come together as a team and have been very professional during the camp. “

The coach was also counting on the return of true ice advantage at home on Wednesday and in the future.

“We have several guys who haven’t played a regular season game in front of their family (including himself),” Keefe recalled. “It is very important. The season is so long that it is important to have that family connection.”

The task will be to maintain the momentum.

“We just want more, more effort, growing more, improving in all the areas we can, ”said defender Morgan Rielly. “But it’s a long season and it will be interesting to see if we can take that to 82 games.”

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