Maple Leafs debut new lines at first practice with coach Sheldon Keefe
The Sheldon Keefe era in Toronto has officially begun. Taking the ice with his new squad for the first time Thursday, the new Maple Leafs coach shook up his line combinations ahead of the club’s meeting with the Arizona Coyotes. The post Vasek Pospisil somehow feeling relaxed through this epic run appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.Much has been made over the past 24 hours of the changes Keefe could bring to the Maple Leafs lineup upon assuming control of the bench. Taking the ice with the club for the first time Thursday, the new head coach made some key tweaks to the team’s forward lines in hopes of quelling the club’s six-game losing streak.
TORONTO – On Saturday night, Alexander Kerfoot made a reckless mistake.
On Monday morning, he paid for it — and owned it.
While Kerfoot was a participant in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first full practice in the Sheldon Keefe era, his friend-slash-victim Erik Johnson was a no-show for the Colorado Avalanche’s practice in Denver and is listed as day-to-day.
While giving chase on the forecheck midway through the Leafs’ 5-3 victory in Denver Saturday, Kerfoot cross-checked his former teammate in the back. Johnson crashed headfirst into the boards.
Johnson did return to action that night, but has since been replaced by call-up Calle Rosen, the defenceman ironically traded from Toronto to acquire Kerfoot as part of the Tyson Barrie–Nazem Kadri Canada Day blockbuster.
Barrie leads Maple Leafs past Avalanche 5-3
DENVER — A quick goal by Colorado got Tyson Barrie's homecoming off to a rough start, but Toronto's dominating stretch helped him celebrate in his return to Denver. Barrie had a goal and an assist during a four-goal burst in the first period, leading the Maple Leafs to a 5-3 victory over the Avalanche on Saturday night. Auston Matthews also had a goal and an assist as Toronto earned its second straight win since Sheldon Keefe took over after Mike Babcock was fired Wednesday. Keefe coached the Maple Leafs to a 3-1 win at Arizona on Thursday night and had to survive a frenetic ending to earn another victory.
Johnson’s status is unknown, but on Monday Leafs GM Kyle Dubas pulled Kerfoot aside post-practice to inform the player he’d been suspended two games (plus docked $37,634.40 in salary) for his actions.
“First and foremost, I think I’m disappointed in myself. It was obviously a bad play. I know Johnson well, and I just hope he’s alright. I hope he doesn’t miss any time or anything like that,” Kerfoot said.
“I feel terrible about the incident.”
Kerfoot explained that he wanted to get a piece of his opponent, fearing that if Johnson rounded the net with pace, he’d break out and spark a rush the other way. Johnson temporarily lost his balance and the puck, and Kerfoot’s shove was enough to send a gasp through Pepsi Center and force the offender to immediately regret his decision.
Leafs' Kerfoot to have hearing for hit on Avs' Johnson
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday. The incident occurred in the second period of Saturday's contest. Johnson remained in the game and Kerfoot was handed a two-minute minor for boarding. Kerfoot pushes Johnson from behind and he goes headfirst into the boards. pic.twitter.com/IhpdFlCt1D — Leafs ALL Day (@LeafsAllDayy) November 24, 2019 The 25-year-old Kerfoot hasThe incident occurred in the second period of Saturday's contest. Johnson remained in the game and Kerfoot was handed a two-minute minor for boarding.
“It’s no excuse. It’s unfortunate timing, but it was also a bad play by me. I just hope he’s all right. I’m close friends with him. I don’t mean to hurt him,” said a contrite Kerfoot. “It’s a bad spot on the ice and something I shouldn’t be doing.
“You just feel bad. You don’t want to see someone fall into the boards like that.”
There is a thin line here between the “greasy” attributes that former coach Mike Babcock lauded Kerfoot for and the type of reckless split-second decision that can earn a player his first NHL suspension or put him on pace for a career-high in penalty minutes (18 so far).
While there is no good time to be sidelined, and wingers Trevor Moore and Mitch Marner are nursing injuries, the Maple Leafs have enough depth at forward that they should be able to sustain Kerfoot’s absence against Detroit on Wednesday and Buffalo on Friday.
Since Keefe took the reins from Babcock, Kerfoot has been deployed on the wing, while Jason Spezza has been centring the Leafs’ third line.
Kerfoot made a point to apologize in-person to Johnson, a teammate of two seasons, after the game and admitted putting out a friend makes him feel worse about the situation.
“You can apologize all you want, but it’s something you shouldn’t be doing on the ice,” Kerfoot said.
“I’m fully responsible for the play.”
Vancouver hosts Toronto after Leivo's 2-goal game .
Toronto Maple Leafs (14-13-4, fifth in the Atlantic Division) vs. Vancouver Canucks (15-11-4, fourth in the Pacific Division) Vancouver, British Columbia; Tuesday, 10 p.m. EST BOTTOM LINE: The Toronto Maple Leafs visit Vancouver after Josh Leivo scored two goals in the Canucks' 6-5 overtime victory over the Sabres. The Canucks are 7-3-3 on their home ice. Vancouver leads the NHL with 31 power-play goals, led by Elias Pettersson with six. TheVancouver, British Columbia; Tuesday, 10 p.m.