As the Toronto Maple Leafs get set to take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight, they’ll be looking to bounce back from two incredibly disheartening games versus the Vancouver Canucks. In one instance, the Leafs outplayed Vancouver but goaltender Braden Holtby won the Canucks the game. In the other, Toronto was let down by their own netminder, the newly-acquired David Rittich.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe had a lot to say about his team, the goaltending and more. The Maple Leafs have dropped their last five games and need to get things sorted out. The good news is, Nick Foligno will be inserted into the lineup tonight and he seems ready to go.
Keefe on His Goaltending and Team Performance
When asked about the two losses to Vancouver, Sheldon Keefe was both positive and negative. He said, “I’m concerned about our goaltending, obviously,” Keefe said post-game, per TSN. “We’ve got to get that sorted out, but I’m not concerned about our team. I believe in our group and we played well enough to win here tonight, played well enough to win the other night (against Vancouver). We gotta get better goaltending.”
It’s not clear if this was a shot at any one netminder or a hint to general manager Kyle Dubas that he didn’t make the right call in adding Rittich at the NHL Trade Deadline. That said, there are certainly questions about the goaltending situation and it will only get more complicated if the Leafs decide they want to activate Frederik Andersen before the playoffs and find a way to make the cap work.
Rittich on His Bad Game
Rittich knew he had a bad game. Goaltenders may have them, but his timing was impeccably awful. “Great question,” Rittich said when he was asked what went wrong for him. “I would like to know the same thing. I’m taking full responsibility for this game. The players did a great job. They got three goals for me and I just didn’t respond, so I’ve got to get better.”
Some questioned whether or not he was the right choice at this year’s deadline but there weren’t a lot of options, the salary cap was an issue and no one expected he would have been as bad as he was in the 6-3 loss. He let in such weak goals, the Canucks broadcast team was actually laughing at him live on air.
Foligno Ready to Roll
Nick Foligno will see his first in-game action tonight as a Maple Leafs’ forward and he’s excited to play with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.”Might as well jump right in, right?” he said.
Keefe noted that he decided to put Foligno with the two big offensive stars of the team because “The line could use a little boost.” He added, “It’s normally the type of time where you would put Hyman with those guys … I just thought it’s a good fit and a great way to introduce Nick to our team, to play with two guys like that.”
Why Nylander Played
Keefe also addressed why he played William Nylander after it appeared he would be a healthy scratch. He didn’t give an exact reason for changing his mind, but hinted that new circumstances came to light regarding Nylander being late for a team meeting and that the entire team had a good discussion about things.
Keefe hinted that these things can be fluid and that opportunities can arise out of incidences that create an opportunity for strong discussion and growth. “I think we’ve gone about it the proper way here and I think it allowed us to have really good discussions and grow as a team. We’re better for it, which is really what you’re looking for. It’s not about punishment, it’s about growth.”
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