The Leafs' increased physicality of late stems from a challenge issued by Sheldon Keefe

Published April 12, 2022 at 9:59
BY RYAN SMITHERAM
If you've been watching the Leafs lately you may have noticed a change in their approach on the forecheck. They have changed from a full speed attack to one with a combination of speed and physicality. This change in philosophy was brought in as a challenge by Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff for the last 20 games of the season in preparation for the playoffs.

As we all know, the playoffs are a different kind of game that is much more physical and where many things go uncalled because there is a different rule book. It's the type of game the Leafs have struggled to adapt to the past few postseasons, so having them buy into this style of play in the regular season is a step in the right direction.

Keefe said that it had been something he and the staff have been preaching since day 1 of camp. While Ilya Lyubushkin has led the way on the back end, the past few weeks has seen Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews lead the charge up front. Both have already set new career highs with hits and it has not gone unnoticed.

"In the last couple of games in particular, someone like Mitch [Marner] has really taken the lead in that for us, and showing the way and setting the standard. Certainly if a guy like him, who's playing as much as he is and does so much for our team, can commit like that, then every single one of our guys can follow suit."


-Sheldon Keefe on Mitch Marner elevating his level of physicality

The fact that the Leafs' star players have bought into the new style of play will go along way in the playoffs, as they are showing teams early that they can't be pushed around like in years past. Buying into the new play style in the regular season is one thing, let's hope that they don't go back to their old ways come playoff time.

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