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Leafs Lose To Avs In “Playoff-Style” Match

March 16, 2023, 6:19 PM ET [325 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche played a tight checking, closely contested match through 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime, with Nathan MacKinnon’s shootout goal giving the Avs the 2-1 victory at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, but the way the game was played served as an encouraging sign that the Leafs with the additions made at the trade deadline can play playoff-style hockey against the NHL’s top echelon.

Morgan Rielly scored the only goal for Toronto in the first period, and Mikko Rantanen responded late in the frame beating Ilya Samsonov on a puck that went off Leafs defenseman Jake McCabe’s skate, but afterward, the game devolved into a chess game on ice, with Colorado outshooting Toronto 29-18.

“There was not a lot of offense available. (Colorado was) able to get one on the power play. We weren’t able to get one on our power plays.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “I thought the two teams played hard. We didn’t give up much, either. They carried play a little bit more than we did, especially through the first two periods. We were maybe better in the third.”

The contest may serve Toronto well as an example of how they will have to play against their likely first-round opponent Tampa Bay, but the Avs were short-handed without team captain Gabriel Landeskog and winger Artturi Lehkonen, whereas the Lightning are currently at full strength and have arguably the best goalie in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“We didn’t crack a whole lot. There wasn’t a whole lot that we gave up. They didn’t give up a whole lot.” Keefe said “(The Avs) show you what a Stanley Cup-winning team does in terms of the defending and checking. They are well known for the offense they can generate with their elite players, but they defend extremely hard and make it difficult on you to get to their net.”

The Leafs once again went with 11 forwards and seven blueliners, loading heavy minutes on core forwards Mitch Marner (29:10), Auston Matthews (26:52), William Nylander (21:12), and John Tavares (19:57), while only Rielly exceeded the 20-minute mark on defense.

At practice on Thursday, both Marner and Matthews were not on the ice (likely being given a rest day), while Luke Schenn partnered with Jake McCabe and Erik Gustafsson was on the extra pairing with Justin Holl.


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