Keefe on the Leafs trying to avoid being leapfrogged by Tampa Bay

Mike Armenti
March 29, 2024  (11:47)

Sheldon Keefe speaks at a press conference
Photo credit: Toronto Maple Leafs - YouTube

With last night's 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to restore their 4-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division standings. To this point, the Leafs have avoided slipping into a Wild Card spot, but if a surging Lightning team has anything to say about it, they're going to make this thing a race to the finish.

The Lightning have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, collecting points in 9 of those games to draw nearly even with the Leafs. The two Atlantic Division rivals also play each other twice more this season, on April 3rd and April 17th. The Leafs have burned their games in hand and with both teams having just 10 games remaining, these two meetings will be important swing games.
How does Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe feel about the push from the Lightning? He's mostly just trying to keep the focus on his team and tightening up the details in their game prior to the start of the playoffs. He also recognizes that the Leafs will have to bring their A-game in their final two meetings against a very dangerous Tampa team.
"We're just trying to win our games and play well in our games. Tampa's been playing as good of hockey as anybody in the league and we can't control that until we play them coming up here, but, in our case, we just gotta get our game going, get as many points as we can, and wherever the chips fall, they'll fall. We just gotta do what we can to secure a playoff position and be ready."

Unfortunately for Keefe and the Leafs, the injuries have really begun to pile up, which has really tested the depth in Toronto. So far, the depth has stood tall, but entering the playoffs banged up is not something the Leafs want to do, which is why Keefe confirmed this week that the plan is to prioritize rest for the sake of heading into the playoffs with a more optimal roster.
"These things are kind of piling up on us, which again, is sort of a red flag in taking practice off [on Thursday]. It seems like we're losing one or two guys every game now to an injury, and that, of course, at this time of year, we don't want to have. We have to prioritize rest to try to keep guys fresh and healthy, then we're going to have to make those adjustments. But it's piling up here and we're not through it right now."

The Leafs will travel to Buffalo to take on a struggling Sabres tomorrow that has gone 5-5-0 in their last 10. Banking another two points on Saturday could end up being the difference between the Leafs finishing 3rd in the Atlantic or finishing in a Wild Card spot as the season winds down. Hopefully the team can avoid any additional injuries between now and April 20th, which is the projected start date for the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Keefe on the Leafs trying to avoid being leapfrogged by Tampa Bay

Where will the Leafs finish ahead of the playoffs?

3rd in the Atlantic28475.1 %
Top Wild Card spot7920.9 %
2nd Wild Card spot154 %
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