Leafs’ newfound commitment to defence ‘foundation’ of impressive start

TORONTO — You could gather a bunch of NHL head coaches in a room, have them watch the same game tape and never find anything close to consensus on the number of scoring chances for and against.

It’s an inherently subjective exercise.

Still, it’s no small thing that the man who has watched the Toronto Maple Leafs more closely than anyone over the last 15 months came away from their biggest test of the season Wednesday night in Montreal saying that they’d surrendered their fewest scoring chances against during the 4-2 victory.

That wasn’t captured in the data publicly available on a site like Natural Stat Trick, for example, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe has repeatedly stressed the need to take away the middle of the ice and net-front while limiting odd-man opportunities, and he’s almost certainly grading the Leafs on that curve — which may differ from how others are scoring it at home.

Against a high-volume Canadiens squad that is particularly dangerous off the rush, his team limited turnovers and transition opportunities after an early Josh Anderson goal. And despite the Leafs’ own offensive instincts and abilities, they kept it from becoming a track meet.

“That to me is the greatest area of growth,” Keefe said Friday amid an 11-2-1 start that ranks among the best in franchise history. “The commitment to do it even at times when our offence hasn’t been going…

Click here to read the full article at Sportsnet >

Feedback