Mark Masters: Rocket Richard pursuit suspended as Auston Matthews miss second straight game
The Maple Leafs (optional) and Philadelphia Flyers skated at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday.
Auston Matthews skated for about 40 minutes Tuesday morning and looked good. The 24-year-old center also felt good, but Matthews will still be out for a second straight game.
“They think, despite the fact that he’s feeling really good, a little more time would benefit him even more, so that’s what we’re going to give him,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We’re not just resting Auston. I mean, he’s got an injury he might be able to get through, but it doesn’t make any sense.”
According to Keefe, Matthews was injured in Saturday’s game in Ottawa. Like Sunday night after the win over Ottawa, Keefe declined to comment on whether it was an upper or lower body issue.
Thus, Matthews will remain stuck on 58 goals, four ahead of Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
“We’re looking for a bigger picture here,” Keefe said. “We have team accomplishments, individual accomplishments, all that stuff in the regular season, and we recognize that, they’re important in their own way, but the ultimate goal is that we’re ready to compete come playoff time. playoffs. . That’s the whole story.”
Matthews also missed the first three games of the year while recovering from off-season wrist surgery and also missed two games in March through suspension. The Leafs have won five of six games without their leading scorer this season.
“It shows the depth we have as a team and our ability to react and accept this challenge,” said captain John Tavares, who takes over as the No.1 center. ‘one like Papi with the season he’s having, I think we know you’re not replacing that and expecting to fill those shoes with one guy or even two guys.”
For the first time this season, the Leafs followed a day off with an optional skate.
“It’s as busy a streak as you’re going to have in the NHL,” Keefe explained.
Toronto are in the middle of a run that will see them play nine times in 15 days. This week, in particular, is tough with four games in four different cities over the next six nights.
Fourteen guys who will face the Flyers still took to the ice on Tuesday morning, including starting goaltender Jack Campbell, who has won all five starts since returning from a rib injury in Philadelphia on April 2.
Keefe declined to disclose his roster plan, but the coach confirmed that William Nylander, Alex Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall will stay together after a strong start on Sunday. Nylander and Kerfoot played well together in last year’s series against the Montreal Canadiens.
“Last season in the playoffs was a very productive group for us with [Alex] Galchenyuk on the left side,” Keefe pointed out. “Now it’s Engvall who plays on this line. So you want to see if something can trigger there and then you have three lines that can really score and be really confident. It’s something I’ve been looking to do for a while.”
Engvall scored his 14th goal of the season on Sunday converting a fine pass from Kerfoot on a two-on-one run. After being a fourth line for most of his NHL career, the 25-year-old has become a key contributor in Toronto’s front nine. Nylander and Engvall shared a great time on the road trip to Ottawa this weekend.
“We were at dinner and I said, ‘It’s so nice to see how you’ve grown as a player and how you’ve excelled this year,'” Nylander revealed. “Obviously as a Swede you want to take care of the Swedes around you and I was proud to see how he grew up.
Engvall averages 13 minutes of ice time per game, up from 11:56 last season.
“He just found a real rhythm with his role and was really stable and consistent with where he was in the lineup,” said Tavares, who believes the 6-foot-5 winger is doing a better job of influencing the play with his physique. “I just think he understands better how he can impact the game with his tools. He’s so quick and so strong and he just understands how to use it.”
A COOKIE BEAUTY! pic.twitter.com/WaxaU6ksm7
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 18, 2022
Nylander also scored on Sunday, giving him 31 goals and matching his previous career high, which was achieved in the 2019-20 season.
“I didn’t know that,” the 25-year-old winger admitted with a laugh. “I thought I had more goals. But, yeah, that’s good to know… It’s my job, to score goals, so hopefully I can score more.”
Nylander thought he was already at 34 goals. He’ll likely hit that mark sooner rather than later if he keeps playing like he’s been doing. Nylander has hit the scoresheet in nine of his last 10 games.
What does Mitch Marner notice?
“Just being competitive on the pucks,” Marner said, “being hungry, being hungry around that net. When he brings it in, he’s one of the best players in the NHL. So it’s a treat to watch.”
The Leafs began taping photos of officials — linesmen and umpires — along with their names and numbers inside the bench during games.
“Obviously it’s a very emotional game,” Tavares said. “Sometimes it can get heated and just knowing someone’s name, it’s amazing what it can do to gain that level of respect, trust and communication with officials, which is really important. They really strive to do that as well with knowing the player names, so we’re just trying to have that communication and that level of comfort flowing back to them as well.”
Tavares revealed that the Leafs started doing this a few weeks ago. He credited veteran Jason Spezza to drive the idea. There is a photo at each end of the bench so attackers and defenders have easy access to information.
“At this point most of the guys who’ve been here a while already know them by name,” defender Justin Holl said with a smile, “but it’s nice to have that just to make sure that you are totally sure.
The Flyers arrive in Toronto having lost five straight. Philadelphia has the worst record (10-30-5) in the NHL since the schedule flip in 2022.
“We have six games left,” forward Scott Laughton said. “We have a lot of young kids here and you have to try to set the right example and the right message, so no better place to do that than tonight in Toronto.”
There was additional buzz around the Flyers room this morning. This is Philadelphia’s first regular season game at Toronto since Nov. 9, 2019.
“I’m excited for tonight, to come home and play in front of my family and friends,” said Laughton, a native of Oakville, Ont. “We have to have a good projection… I had the chance to go home and see my grandparents who I haven’t seen for seven or eight months. It was the highlight of my year, of course , to see my dad and my grandma and everyone like that. They’ve been supporting me and I’m so glad they can watch tonight.
Martin Jones gets the start for the Flyers.
Jake Muzzin will miss a third consecutive game due to an undisclosed injury. He skated Tuesday morning and will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip, which includes games Thursday in Tampa, Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., and Sunday in Washington.
Jake Muzzin, who missed the last two games, also on the ice before the Leafs skate pic.twitter.com/9TUhkEKXhn
– Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 19, 2022
Rasmus Sandin, who suffered a knee injury a month ago, took part in Toronto’s optional skate, but the defenseman won’t make the trip south.
“He’s going to keep pushing,” Keefe said. “We are working on what we hope will be the possibility of him being available next week.”
The Leafs wrap up the regular season with games next week against Detroit (April 26) and Boston (April 29).
Ondrej Kase skated in a non-contact red jersey on Tuesday. It was the first time we’ve seen the winger on the ice with teammates since suffering a concussion on March 19.
“It’s positive that he continues to feel good,” Keefe noted. “He’s been on the ice consistently for the past four or five days without any setbacks and he’s feeling great. Obviously we’ll be traveling on the road and there won’t be a lot of practice time, so his road back to full speed is a bit more difficult depending on the schedule.”
Ondrej Kase wears a 🛑 contactless sweater
It’s the first time he’s been seen on the ice with teammates since the concussion, which happened a month ago today pic.twitter.com/aFPDFlKdYd
– Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 19, 2022
Lines of flyers at Tuesday’s morning skate:
van Riemsdyk – Laughton – Brink|
Farabee – Frost – Tippett
Provorov – Sanheim
Zamula – Connauton
Yandle – Attard