The vacation will do the Toronto Maple Leafs very well, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe, who believes his team will bounce back after the All-Star Game.
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Stripped of certain elements like star striker Auston Matthews and goalkeeper Matt Murray, the Queen City formation has seen ups and downs in recent days. A 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Friday was followed by a 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals two days later. However, a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday spoiled the start of his vacation.
“We go into the break knowing we’re a good team and we’re in a very good position,” Keefe said, as reported by NHL.com. It’s hard to graduate like that before the break, but in a way it will all be beneficial. We had a great campaign to get here. At some point we need a break, just like everyone else. On the other hand, we will come back inspired by our journey so far.”
Toronto is second in the Atlantic Division with 70 points, five ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nevertheless, the Florida club has four games in hand and nothing is decided. Keefe’s men will certainly want to make sure they retain home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, although that’s no guarantee of playoff success; Last spring they were eliminated at home by the “Bolts” in duel number 7.
If they can’t count on Matthews, who is struggling with a sprained knee that will sideline him for at least three weeks, they should look to the Bruins for inspiration to hone their game.
“They are a good club and like them we have to pay attention to every little detail. Effective execution is required and we must find a way to surpass ourselves,” commented Captain John Tavares.
The Leafs will reclaim the collar by delivering a home and away series to the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 10-11.