In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Notes, I’ll share news emerging from the team as it heads into the showdown of Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Item One: There Will Be Fans in the Stands Tonight
After Game 6, Maple Leafs’ winger Mitch Marner called it clearly, ‘We just didn’t come ready to play. We really do have to start on time because it’s getting said a lot, and it’s not good enough.” Marner was referring to the boost Montreal fans provided to their team.
It mattered to the Canadiens when Game 6 was played before the 2,500 fans who showed up. Will it matter to the Maple Leafs that they will have a small crowd? Game 6 was unique for the Canadiens because it was the first live audience to attend an NHL game in Canada since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last March.
Montreal captain Shea Weber noted how much it mattered to the team when he said, “We could hear them before the game, and going out for the warmup, we had chills again.”
Weber added that “It was unbelievable. It felt like a lot more than 2,500 people, it was amazing. I can’t imagine what 20,000 people would be like because that was electric.”
Obviously, it gave Weber a boost of energy, because the Canadiens’ captain logged more than 37 minutes on defense.
In response, and for the first time in Toronto, the Maple Leafs will be allowed to invite 550 fully-vaccinated health care workers to attend Game 7 at the Scotiabank Arena tonight. Similar to the fans in Montreal, these will be first fans who have been allowed to show up for a Maple Leafs’ game for more than 14 months – since March 2020.
It also marks the first time the Province of Ontario has allowed a crowd to attend an indoor event since the pandemic changed lives forever. The crowd won’t be large and 550 people isn’t 25000 people, but you can bet there will be some challenges for the crowd to be as noisy as the Canadiens’ crowd and work to spur on their Maple Leafs. Head coach Sheldon Keefe should hope so.
Could this be a push that would help the Maple Leafs win Game 7? Maple Leafs fans have to hope that their team will win this one in regulation because the team might not want to allow another one to go into overtime after losing the last two games in the extra period.
Item Two: What’s the Status of Jake Muzzin?
Yesterday at mid-day, coach Keefe wasn’t able to give an update on the status of Jake Muzzin, who suffered a lower-body injury and had to leave the ice during Game 6. Keefe did note that Muzzin was “getting further tests done this (Sunday) afternoon, so we don’t have word or update on his status.”
In short, Muzzin hasn’t yet been ruled out yet for Monday’s game; and, if he’s able to play, that will be seen as a good sign for his Maple Leafs. He’s scored two goals and added an assist during the postseason. He’s becoming a staple for his team.
Item #3: John Tavares Skates
Just minutes before this post was to be published, word came out that John Tavares had skated in practice today. What that means, I don’t know. But it seemed worth reporting.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Obviously, should the Maple Leafs lose tonight, welcome to an early offseason. And that’s not something the team expected with all their success during the regular season or even more recently when they went ahead of this series by taking a 3-1 game lead.
Coach Keefe acknowledged that the fans mattered. He noted that ”The crowd and the push at the start was significant for them.” Then he added the obvious: ”We’ve got to be a whole lot better.”
It will be good to have some fans in the stands, both for the Maple Leafs and for Canada. It’s a sign that life might just have a chance to get back to normal. The winner of Game 7 will face the Winnipeg Jets. The Canadiens are hoping to come back from a 3-1 series deficit for only the third time in their entire history.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf