In this episode of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits, I’ll review and comment upon a number of news items that are impacting the team as they head into Montreal tonight to play the Canadiens. Following tonight’s game, the team heads quickly to Columbus for a match against the Blue Jackets.
Quick Hit One: So What Happens with Ryan Dzingel?
So what happens to Ryan Dzingel? He’s the second player on the deal with the Arizona Coyotes that brought the Maple Leafs Ilya Lyubushkin, who is the right-shot defenseman the team had been looking for. The answer is that he was placed on waivers yesterday. If he passes through waivers, he’ll likely become a depth forward with the team headed into the postseason. If he’s claimed by another team, that makes life easier for the Maple Leafs.
As Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas noted, “Dzingel is an NHL player, and selfishly we hope he gets through (waivers), but if not, that will just be another contract slot and some cash for us.” (from “With big Ilya Lyubushkin in the house, Leafs leave door open on blue line: ‘May the best defenceman win’,” Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, 20/02/22).
Although Dzingel has had two 20-goal seasons a few seasons ago with the Ottawa Senators, that was a few years ago. With the Coyotes this season, the 29-year-old veteran forward scored seven points (with four goals) in 26 games. As Dubas noted, if he clears waivers, he’ll probably move to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
With Dzingel being waived today, the team needed to send a player down to the AHL to be salary-cap compliant. That person was Rasmus Sandin, who’s waiver exempt. Tomorrow, either Dzingel will be with the Marlies or with another team will pick him up. Either way, Sandin will be with the Maple Leafs.
Quick Hit Two: Line Combinations for Monday’s Game
As TSN’s Mark Masters reported, the line combinations at Sunday’s practice were as follows:
First Line: Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Second Line: Alex Kerfoot – John Tavares – William Nylander
Third Line: Ilya Mikheyev – David Kampf – Ondrej Kase
Fourth Line: Pierre Engvall – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds
First Pairing: Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie
Second Pairing: Muzzin – Liljegren
Third Pairing: Travis Dermott – Justin Holl
Petr Mrazek will start tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
Jack Campbell will back up Mrazek.
Power play units at Sunday’s practice:
First Unit Power-Play
On the Flanks: Matthews, Marner
Down the Middle and Net-front Presence: Tavares & Nylander rotate
Second Unit Power-Play
On the Flanks: Mikheyev, Spezza
Down the Middle: Kase
Net front Presence: Bunting
Note: Sandin did not practice yesterday because he was sent to the AHL so the club could remain salary-cap compliant.
Quick Hit Three: Coaching Differences Between Mike Babcock and Sheldon Keefe
Long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith emailed me today to share something he noted about the Maple Leafs’ play this season under head coach Sheldon Keefe. We were speaking about the team in front of goalie Jack Campbell not protecting him from rebound opportunities after he made the first save a number of times, but eventually let in a rebound or two during the team’s Saturday night loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Smith noticed that he believed coach Keefe had set up different instructions about how to defend. He noted that, under Babcock, the defensive philosophy around the goal was to locate your man and attempt to negate his ability to make a play, be it with your body, your stick, or whatever.
He believed Keefe has coached his players to focus more on the puck than the opposing player. For example, he noted that if an opposing player has the puck in open ice in the Toronto zone, rather than a Maple Leafs’ defender trying to impede that player, he hangs back a bit and tries to prevent the opposing player from making a pass or a shot.
The same with rebounds. Rather than picking up an opposing player and tying him up to prevent him from getting the rebound, defending Maple Leafs’ players focus on trying to get the rebound themselves and getting control of the puck.
Traditional wisdom suggests that defenders should play the man first and the puck second. The upside to Keefe’s coaching philosophy is that, if it works, the play gets turned around more quickly and the puck is moved up the ice before the defense can react. However, if it doesn’t work, the play in front of the net can get ugly – and quickly. On Saturday night, it didn’t work and Campbell looked bad.
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