Four Leafs preparing to make some noise in the postseason

Published April 29, 2022 at 3:18 PM
BY MIKE ARMENTI
The Leafs are doing everything they can, from the front office down, to avoid suffering a similar fate to the one they suffered last season after being taken to the cleaners by the Montreal Canadiens, dropping a 3-1 series lead and bowing out early for the 5th consecutive year.

During the Amazon Prime docuseries "All or Nothing: The Toronto Maple Leafs", we saw how hurt and defeated the team was, particularly Jack Campbell, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. It's something that the team does not want to experience again, but this time around, they're coming in a little bit more prepared, with a much deeper lineup and a much better attitude.

Following the Leafs' optional morning skate, four Leafs remained on the ice for over an hour, running some additional drills, working on some creative plays and trying to keep things loose and have some fun before the real test begins. Those players were Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Ondrej Kase and Rasmus Sandin.




Matthews and Marner, as we know, have been given the night off to rest and recover from the bumps and bruises that they've had to nurse throughout the season - though there are sure to be some more come Monday night. Kase and Sandin, on the other hand, have been sidelined with injuries since March and are taking every opportunity that they can to make good use of their time on the ice and in the gym to ensure that they're ready to go when their time comes in the postseason.

Marner and Matthews are among those who have really elevated their game this season, adding new tools to their arsenal. Marner with his new affinity for shooting the puck and finding the back of the net, and Matthews with his improved defensive awareness and relentlessness on both sides of the puck. Both players have also set new career highs for hits as well, so they're ramping up the physicality, which will surely help in the playoffs.

Kase (concussion) and Sandin (knee) are both close to returning. For Sandin, with the defense pairs appearing to be all but set, it may take an injury or someone dropping the ball for him to get back into the lineup in the first round. For Kase, however, he may be re-inserted into the lineup as soon as he's medically cleared to return.

This season has had way more ups than downs and it appears as though the Leafs have a brand new mindset. We heard from a lot of the players last year on locker room cleanout day. The ones we heard from were disappointed, embarrassed and ashamed of their Game 7 performance and the fact that they let the series slip away, becoming far too complacent, while the Habs continued to work and grind. This season, it's the Leafs who are doing the working and the grinding. I'd hate to be the Lightning or Bruins, having to go up against a pissed off Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
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