Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Maurice & Keefe, Samsonov & Knies

The Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in Game 2 of their second-round series. That gives them a 2-0 lead and leaves them two wins short of moving to the Eastern Conference Final.

The killer for the Maple Leafs was the two goals scored in only 47 seconds by Aleksander Barkov and Gustav Forsling. That moved Florida from a goal down to a goal up. They were the last goals scored in the game, but they cooked the goose of the Blue and White. 

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Once again, Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was outstanding and carried the game for his team. In the end, he saved 35 of 37 shots for the win.

To say the Panthers are on a roll is an understatement. The win gave them five straight at the toughest time of the season against two of the toughest NHL teams. The Panthers are roaring; and, if they do carry on to win the series, they’ll reach the Eastern Conference Final for just the second time in their franchise history. 

Item One: Paul Maurice Admits His Goalie Stole the Game

After the game, Florida coach Paul Maurice spoke about the impressive game his goalie played. He pointed out that a team needs their goalie to win at least one game per series, and Bobrovsky checked that box in Game 2. 

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Maurice also noted that it wasn’t a good start to the game for his Panthers and that the team put Bobrovsky in a tough spot during the first 10 minutes of the game. However, he was up to the challenge and was able to shut the door and give his team the kind of solid performance that led to their win. 

On the bench watching Bobrovsky work, it seemed Maurice was also riding the wave. He noted that given how Bobrovsky was dialed in he simply felt that his goalie wouldn’t let the other team score.

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He was right.

Item Two: Sheldon Keefe Baffled by His Team’s Mistakes

In the other dressing room, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe was questioned by the media about his team’s loss. He shared his disappointment and confusion with his team’s play, particularly at the start of the second period when the Panthers scored (or rather the Maple Leafs gave up) two goals in under a minute. 

Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What confused him the most was that his team did not make those kinds of mistakes in the last series. What was baffling was that they were making these mistakes now. Keefe also conceded that his team’s poor record on home ice in the playoffs was also making him scratch his head. The difference for him between the two series was that, against the Panthers, the Maple Leafs simply seemed unable to claw their way back after giving up goals.

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Keefe also said that his team was rolling early in the game but gave the game to the Panthers. As he noted, teams that are serious about winning don’t do that. 

Item Three: Ilya Samsonov Deserted By Teammates

Maple Leafs’ goalie Ilya Samsonov didn’t play poorly. Yet, despite making 26 saves, his team lost 3-2. Most of the blame goes to his own team. His individual performance should have been good enough to carry the game, but it wasn’t.

Ilya Samsonov Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

All three goals were scored after giveaways by teammates. It looked simple from my seat in front of the television. The Maple Leafs’ faulty defensive play sealed the Game 2 loss.

Item Four: Matthew Knies Was Injured and Didn’t Return

In shades of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), Matthew Knies was head-locked to the ground behind the Maple Leafs’ net in the first period. He did not finish Thursday’s game due to an undisclosed injury. After the incident, he struggled to the bench and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. 

Coach Keefe reported after the game that he did not have an update on Knies’ status. However, he shared that Knies’ inability to complete the game wasn’t a good sign. Keefe wouldn’t comment when he was asked about Sam Bennett’s tackle, only suggesting that the NHL would review it.

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However, Keefe did hint that when his own players – Michael Bunting’s Round 1 cross-checking punishment and Auston Matthews’ tussle with the Buffalo Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin during last season’s outdoor game – committed such offences, they were suspended.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs are obviously in a hole. But it’s nothing that four straight wins wouldn’t solve. The question is whether this team has the wherewithal to return fire. The big guns on Toronto’s roster were once again firing blanks, but they were firing.