More than a decade since playing in his last NHL game and Windsor Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard is still picking up assists.
After scoring 38 goals in the regular season, veteran winger Matthew Maggio had just a single goal in 12 playoff games for the Spitfires heading into Game 2 of the club’s Western Conference final against the Flint Firebirds on Monday.
Savard got to the rink early before the game to personally tape Maggio’s sticks before the crucial match.
“I taped all four of his sticks and told him I used special stick tape,” said Savard, who won two OHL scoring titles as a junior and produced over 200 goals 700 points in the NHL.
Maggio responded with his first career OHL hat-trick to help the Spitfires to a 7-2 win over Flint to even the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Game 3 is Wednesday in Flint.
“Dakota (Baranosky, the club’s assistant equipment manager) started the trend when he started taping and I went on a pretty good point streak and then, obviously, being snake bit the last stretch of games, Savvy decided to give it a try,” Maggio said of Savard. “(He) told me he put a four-point night into it. He didn’t get four, but I think it did pretty well.
Regardless of the level, scoring droughts are a part of hockey and the Spitfires wanted to stay patient with Maggio.
“It’s tough, whether you’re older, younger or any age getting your confidence,” Savard said. “He’s done it (scored) all year and for us. Throughout it, you do talk, but you try to leave him alone. You don’t want to get too many things in a guy’s head.”
Maggio was fully aware the goals were not coming, but said he appreciated not hearing it from anyone on a daily basis.
“I think the team’s done a great job, from the coaches just to my teammates, just sticking with me,” the 19-year-old Maggio said. “I thought we all knew it would come eventually as long as I kept playing my game and kept putting pucks on net and it would go in eventually.”
Still, the frustration continued for Maggio during the first period of Monday’s win. He had two golden chances in the opening frame, but fired one wide and saw Firebirds’ goalie Luke Cavallin absorb the second.
When a shot finally hit the mesh at the back of net to give Windsor a 2-0 lead on a power play in the second period, Maggio actually did a double take before starting his celebrating.
“I think I had to confirm that,” Maggio said. “I felt snake bit that first period and I thought I had some goals that (Cavallin) saved and he was playing great. I had to look back to make sure that one went in and that felt real good.
With center Ryan Abraham scoring twice in the first game and Maggio adding three in the second game, Savard is hoping his second line, which also includes Daniel D’Amico, might be getting back on track.
“You saw during that 13-game winning stretch (near the end of the regular season), those three were like 1A and 1B,” Savard said in reference to that line along with the Will Johnston, Will Cuylle and Alex Christopoulos. “That’s when we’re tough and it makes it easier for a coach because I don’t have to scramble guys around.”
While it was a sense of relief to find the back of the net, Maggio does not expect to score three goals every night, but hopes somehow wants to be a contributor every game.
“It’s a big relief for sure,” said Maggio, who will let Savard do another tape job on Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s been a tough playoffs. Definitely a little snake bit (with) only one goal in the playoffs. It’s tough and it’s frustrating, but I think I’ve tried to have a short memory and not worry about the game before and kind of just focus on trying to play my best and knowing the goals would come.
“There’s not really much you can do about the production. It’s going to come (and) it’s going to go. So as long as I’m playing my game and I’m good defensively and creating energy, that’s where I get my confidence from. To have that go in (Monday) was huge for me, but as long as the team’s winning, that’s the main goal.”