WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Toronto Maple Leafs are formally in survival mode.
They need to protect for the playoffs greater than put together for them at this level.
Prime-line winger Michael Bunting limping off the ice Saturday in Florida was a pointy reminder of rapidly depth can dwindle. As was star centre John Tavares’s taking an ultra-rare day of relaxation Sunday in Washington for load administration.
“The fact is, you gotta play the video games, and accidents occur in our sport,” coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned, previous to Toronto’s 4-3 shootout win over the Capitals. Enjoying their third playoff group in 4 nights, the Leafs regarded gassed for extended stretches. The scoreboard was gentler than the opposition.
“You attempt to do all which you could to maintain your gamers wholesome. However you continue to must be aggressive and play the video games.”
“Aggressive” was just a little hit-and-miss throughout an uneven 1-1-1 street journey on which the Leafs have been outscored 14-6.
Now solely two stay, mercifully.
Tuesday’s house date versus lottery-bound Detroit ought to have all of the depth of an exhibition match, and Friday’s finale in opposition to Boston may very well be both a tone-setter or a no-hitter. We’ll see.
For all of the bluster over the Maple Leafs’ roster depth in current weeks, the bumps and bruises are including up.
Aim champ Auston Matthews wanted per week off to recuperate from an undisclosed ailment.
Rookie defenceman Timothy Liljegren — breaking out properly since being paired with Mark Giordano — wanted Sunday off to heal some wounds, a choice that necessitated an emergency callup of journeyman left shot D-man Carl Dahlstrom.
Veteran Jake Muzzin travelled on this three-game street journey however was not deemed match sufficient to play in a single sport. Muzzin is coping with an undisclosed harm, unrelated to the 2 concussions he suffered earlier this 12 months, however he hasn’t regarded like himself for months now.
Rasmus Sandin (knee) is a great guess to be recovered for Recreation 1. Ondrej Kase (concussion) appears like an extended shot. And backup goalie Petr Mrazek, out together with his third groin harm as a Leaf, is weeks away.
Extra readability on Bunting’s harm ought to come Monday, when the membership returns to Toronto and the winger undergoes additional testing.
“His spirits are OK,” relays defenceman Justin Holl. “Clearly, he is pissed off. What he says is, ‘It is a dangerous time of 12 months to have one thing like this occur.’ Which is true — however we do not actually know what the severity is. So, everybody’s fingers are crossed.”
Toronto rested No. 1 goalie Jack Campbell and dressed a lineup Sunday in opposition to the hard-hitting Capitals that exposed the restrictions to their depth.
However a late rally salvaged some extent in regulation, and Alexander Kerfoot’s shootout winner earned Toronto the bonus.
Wayne Simmonds, a wholesome scratch not so way back, was promoted to the third line. Alexander Kerfoot centred the second unit. And rookie Nick Abruzzese was given a crack on the highest line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Bunting (and Kase, for that matter) carry some grease and fearlessness to the highest 9 that might be sorely missed come Could.
“It is a large loss for us,” Keefe mentioned. “[Bunting] is a novel participant for our group together with his skill-set and his vitality and his angle that he performs with. We have grown to actually recognize what he does. He brings lots to our group.
“We have performed with out completely different folks all all through the season at completely different occasions. The [2-1] stretch we simply performed with out Auston, for example, the place guys stepped up. And extra of the identical right here — guys will make the most of the alternatives that come their means.”
Maple Leafs followers perceive higher than most how key accidents can have an effect on the end result of a playoff collection.
As antsy as they’re for video games that matter, their most important precedence is well being.
“We’re able to get going,” Holl says. “We nonetheless have just a little bit of labor to do right here on the finish of the 12 months, however we’re able to get into it.”
Fox’s Quick 5
• Talking of avoiding hurt: The Capitals misplaced 50-goal man Alex Ovechkin to an upper-body harm within the third interval.
Ovechkin was tripped up by Leafs goalie Erik Källgren on a breakaway, crashing into the boards together with his left shoulder.
After remaining on the ice for some time, the sport on his personal toes after a number of unkind phrases for the officers. He didn’t return. No penalty was referred to as.
• The Capitals head into the final week of the common season with no clue who might be their Recreation 1 starter. Vanecek has began 38 video games with 23 wins and .910 save share. Ilya Samsonov has began 37 video games with 23 wins and a .897 save share.
Neither has a contract for 2022-23 but.
“We’re going proper right down to the top right here watching the goalies,” coach Peter Laviolette says.
• Ilya Lyubushkin set a brand new career-high in objectives (two). He has scored extra in 29 video games as a Maple Leaf than he had in 180 video games for Arizona (one).
• Rick Tocchet confirmed on Spittin’ Chicklets this week that the Maple Leafs made him a tempting supply within the low season to be an affiliate coach. (The Penguins and Bruins additionally reached out.)
Robust resolution, Tocchet mentioned. He selected to spend the season as a TNT analyst however seems to be to get again within the league as a head coach down the street.
• Matthews is idle at 58 objectives and down to 2 video games to hit 60. His present five-game aim “drought” is the longest of his season.
With an help on Lyubushkin’s strike, Marner elevated his level whole to 97. 100 is inside grasp.