Maple Leafs’ Muzzin buzzin’ for return — Toronto Sun

His broken hand is healed, his infant daughter now knows his face and it has been two months since Jake Muzzin has fired a puck or popped an opponent. So if the NHL moves to a few hub cities to finish the regular season, an idea that might see players on the road and isolated […]

Maple Leafs’ Muzzin buzzin’ for return — Toronto Sun

Ex-Kings Clifford, Muzzin making an impact as Leafs continue to grow — Toronto Sun

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — As much as Kyle Clifford, and Jake Muzzin, can bring a winning pedigree to the Maple Leafs, the man coaching their former club sees their potential impact a little differently. Read More

Ex-Kings Clifford, Muzzin making an impact as Leafs continue to grow — Toronto Sun

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — As much as Kyle Clifford, and Jake Muzzin, can bring a winning pedigree to the Maple Leafs, the man coaching their former club sees their potential impact a little differently.

“I think that sometimes the winner tag is overrated,” Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan said on Wednesday. “I think it’s the ability to fit in — the chemistry tag should be the one that is addressed more than the winner tag.”

The Leafs have been getting that symmetry with Muzzin, who signed a four-year extension with Toronto last week, for more than a year after acquiring Muzzin from the Kings in January 2019. The experience of having Clifford, and goalie Jack Campbell, as an influence on the group will hit one month on Thursday following the trade with the Kings on Feb. 5 that brought both to Toronto.

Clifford and Muzzin hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Kings, though as McLellan indicated, that’s only part of the package.

While Muzzin has taken on the status of a spectator after breaking a knuckle on his right hand last week against Tampa Bay — Muzzin said on Wednesday he would like to be back before the original prognosis of four weeks’ absence is up, but only if it “makes sense” — Clifford continues to take on a greater role, off the ice as much as on.

“He has really been terrific,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice at the Kings’ facility near the Los Angeles International Airport. “His perspective that he has, the experiences he has, also the type of personality he has to be able to talk to anyone on the team.

“He is a competitor and he brings it every day. Those types of things rub off on the rest of your team.”

The Leafs could have used Muzzin’s guidance and presence on the ice on Tuesday night in San Jose, when there was general disorganization in the defensive zone during a 5-2 loss against the Sharks. While Muzzin and the rest of the injured Leafs might not have liked what they witnessed, the defenceman had some perspective a day later.

“It’s tough to be at the top of your game consistently night in and night out,” Muzzin said. “The teams that find a way to do that the most are at the top of the league and get themselves to win a Cup.

“It’s a battle throughout the season to continually bring your emotion and compete level. We’re working to get to that.

“We believe in the group in there. It’s just that getting there is tough.”

The Leafs, who take on the Kings on Thursday night at the Staples Center, won their previous three games and four in five before the Sharks attacked.

Veterans such as Muzzin, Clifford, Jason Spezza and captain John Tavares, whether they have won the Cup, are a positive influence, but with the emphasis in Toronto on a younger core of players, the learning curve will have bumps.

“We don’t want to be responding to anything that is happening,” Keefe said. “We want to be dictating it and we want to be confident when we come to the arena every day.”

So the work continues to try to be, as Muzzin said, as close to consistent every night as possible.

“We don’t want to say ‘Hey, we put together three pretty good games last week and that was just a one-off,’” Keefe said of the San Jose loss. “There have been other times where we have looked like that.

“One of the bigger issues is that when we have looked bad, we have been really bad. We’re not going to have great nights every night and we’re not going to win every night. But we’re capable of putting together a level of competitiveness and work ethic and structure every day to make sure it doesn’t go south to that degree.”

The Leafs will be better once Muzzin returns. Clifford is making in-roads.

We come back to something else McLellan said, which applies to the NHL as a whole.

“Sometimes coaches, media, fans, we live in this fantasy world that we’re just going to run over teams and take advantage no matter how we are built,” McLellan said. “The parity in the league is immense and they’re human beings. They’re going to have off-nights.”

tkoshan@postmedia.com

TRAIK-EOTOMY: Emergency defenceman? Leafs could sure use one now — Toronto Sun

Does the league allow for an emergency backup defenceman? Is there a 42-year-old sitting in the stands who can skate backwards and chip pucks off the glass? If so, you might want to call Kyle Dubas. The general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs could use all the help he can get these days after […]

TRAIK-EOTOMY: Emergency defenceman? Leafs could sure use one now — Toronto Sun

Leafs coach Keefe welcomes return of defenceman Muzzin — Toronto Sun

Read More

Leafs coach Keefe welcomes return of defenceman Muzzin — Toronto Sun

NASHVILLE — No one was happier to see Jake Muzzin walk through the door of the Maple Leafs dressing room here — with his equipment — than Sheldon Keefe.

Putting the brakes on Toronto’s recent skid has proven harder without the defenceman the coach calls “in many ways the conscience of our team.”

“It means a great deal, both in terms of his play on the ice and his voice,” said Keefe of Muzzin’s month-long absence with a broken foot. “He speaks a lot, has great presence, great experience of course. He’s an important part of our backend and makes everyone else better.”

Muzzin was asked — and accepted — a conditioning game with the Marlies in Cleveland on Friday en route here, something maybe other veterans might balk at.

“Credit to him for having no ego, not being concerned about anything other than getting himself as prepared as possible. Talking with him, it sounded like a very positive experience and he looked great today.”

lhornby@postmedia.com

MARLIES 2 AT CLEVELAND 5. POSTGAME NOTES: “You get the timing back within a game like this. It’s a high level of hockey here still. There’s lots of skill on this team and lots of skill in the league, and you accomplish that by coming and playing here.” — JAKE MUZZIN.

TORONTO MARLIES (21-17-2-2 – 46 Points) vs. CLEVELAND MONSTERS (19-20-2-2 – 42 Points).

FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2020

 123OTFINAL
TORONTO1012
CLEVELAND2125

GAME SUMMARY    |    GAME SHEET |    PHOTOS    |      SCRUMS

SCORING SUMMARY

Toronto: T. Moore (1) (T. Liljegren, N. Petan), J. Bracco (4) PP (N. Petan, T. Liljegren)
Goaltender: K. Kaskisuo (28/31)

Cleveland: D. Simpson (7) (C. Thurskauf, T. Fix-Wolanksy), D. Simpson (8) (Unassisted), T. Fix-Wolanksy (4) PP (K. Stenlund), P. Bittner (5) EN (D. Simpson, R. MacInnis), D. Barach (4) EN (S. Matteau)
Goaltender: M. Kivlenieks (35/37)

ON THE SCORESHEET

  • Trevor Moore put the Marlies on the board at 3:54 of the first period. This was Moore’s first goal for the Marlies in two games this season.
  • Jeremy Bracco scored on the power play at 18:16 of the third period. This was Bracco’s first power play goal. He has 13 assists on the power play this season.
  • Timothy Liljegren recorded the primary assist on Moore’s first period goal and the secondary assist on Bracco’s third period goal. Liljegren has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in his last 10 games and has recorded a point (1-9-10) in eight consecutive games. This is Liljegren’s sixth multi-point game of the season.
  • Nic Petan registered the secondary assist on Moore’s first period goal and the primary assist on Bracco’s third period goal. Petan has 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 16 games this season.
  • Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped 28 of 31 shots he faced. He is now 11-6-1-1 on the season with a .911 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average.

OF NOTE…

  • Toronto was 3-for-4 on the penalty kill and 1-for-4 on the power play.
  • Toronto had a 37-33 edge in shots in all situations. Timothy Liljegren, Scott Pooley and Garrett Wilson led the Marlies with four shots on goal.
  • The Marlies are 10-9-2-1 against North Division opponents and are 2-2-0-0 against the Cleveland Monsters.
  • Toronto is on their annual Boat Show road trip, returning to Coca-Cola Coliseum on January 31. Before the All-Star Break (January 26 to January 29), Toronto will face the Texas Stars, the San Antonio Rampage, the Charlotte Checkers and the Cleveland Monsters, each in two game series.

REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

  • Goals: K. Agostino (20)
  • Assists: J. Bracco (29)
  • Points:  K. Agostino (33)
  • PPG: N. Petan (6)
  • Shots: P. Aberg (105)
  • +/-:  B. Harpur, J. Lindgren, G. Wilson (+6)
  • PIMS: G. Wilson (60)

ON THE ROAD

  • Toronto’s away record is 8-11-2-2 (20 points) this season. Toronto’s longest road point streak reached nine points from Oct. 11 to Nov. 2 (3-0-2-1).
  • The Marlies have been outscored 86-71. Pontus Aberg leads the Marlies in goals (10) and Timothy Liljegren in assists (14) on the road.
  • Goaltenders Kasimir Kaskisuo (5-4-1-1) and Joseph Woll (3-6-1-1) have combined to make 685 saves.

RECORD WHEN…

  • The Marlies are 7-10-1-0 when trailing after the first period and 3-13-2-1 when trailing after the second period.
  • Toronto is 7-6-1-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • The Marlies are 4-4-0-0 in Friday games and are 2-7-0-1 in January.

CURRENT POINT STREAKS

  • Timothy Liljegren has points (1-9-10) in eight consecutive games.
  • Mason Marchment has points (3-2-6) in three consecutive games.
  • Trevor Moore has points (1-1-2) in consecutive games.

MARLIES UPDATES.

  • Kevin Gravel (illness) did not dress for tonight’s game against Cleveland.
  • Egor Korshkov (lower leg laceration) did not dress for tonight’s game against Cleveland.
  • Jesper Lindgren left tonight’s game against Cleveland in the third period and did not return.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

  • January 23: Returned forward Colt Conrad on loan to Newfoundland (ECHL).
  • January 23: Assigned defenceman Jake Muzzin to conditioning loan from Toronto (NHL).
  • January 20: Reassigned defenceman Joseph Duszak by Toronto (NHL) to Newfoundland (ECHL).
  • January 18: Returned defenceman Timothy Liljegren on loan from Toronto (NHL).
  • January 18: Returned forward Adam Brooks on loan from Toronto (NHL).

POSTGAME QUOTES

HEAD COACH GREG MOORE

On whether he saw improvements in Toronto’s play tonight despite the loss:
I think for a lot of people you could say that results are needed, we’ve been working together through a lot as a group. There was a lot of good stuff in today’s game. Again we’ve been talking about the starts of our games, again today was not good enough. We lost the game in the first five, ten minutes. We’ll keep reiterating that but we can’t expect to come out that slow. The lack of intensity in the D-zone is a problem, it got better as the game went on but we’ve got to be able to manufacture that from the start.

On the lack of intensity in the defensive zone:
It’s a mindset. As soon as there’s a fifty-fifty puck, we’ve got to close, we’ve got to separate somebody. We can’t get beat off the walls and back to our net, we’re not protecting our net, we’re not boxing out, we’re not getting sticks and when there is a chance for us to be strong and win a battle along the wall, we’ve got to come up with those pucks. We just haven’t built a mindset in our D-zone to do that yet.

On whether defensive zone issues have impacted Toronto’s penalty kill:
Yes and no. It’s a little bit different. The concept’s the same. As soon as the pucks out of their hands and they’re not under full control, we’ve got to be able to close and outnumber somebody and win a battle and then exit. So in that sense, yes. There were moments in the game still where we do that but it’s not consistent enough. I thought the second half of the ice towards their net, we did a lot of good stuff. Some better o-zone than we’ve seen in the last games and we threatened the net a lot better.

DEFENCEMAN JAKE MUZZIN

“You get the timing back within a game like this. It’s a high level of hockey here still. There’s lots of skill on this team and lots of skill in the league, and you accomplish that by coming and playing here.”

NEXT GAME:

January 25 at Cleveland – 1:00 p.m. ET
January 31 vs Charlotte – 7:00 p.m. ET
February 1 vs Charlotte – 4:00 p.m. ET
February 4 vs Belleville – 7:00 p.m. ET
February 7 at Belleville – 7:00 p.m. ET

WHAT THE MAPLE LEAFS SAID POSTGAME: “Obviously, we want to play a lot better, a lot more consistent. We’ve got to keep working to find a way. At times it feels like it’s going against us and that’s just the nature of it.” –JOHN TAVARES.

HEAD COACH MIKE BABCOCK

On tonight’s game:

Well, I don’t like that it was 5-4. I really liked our start, I thought we had an outstanding start and played really well. The period was over, we were down 2-0. I thought we crawled our way back and had a really good second period; gave up very, very little. In the end, we gave up the goal at the end of that and then I thought in the third period we weren’t as good as we needed to be in order to have success and crawl our way back. It’s a one-goal game at the end, but the way – I would have liked it better at 3-2, to be honest with you. We’ve got to do a better job. Tonight the special teams battle is 2-0 for them and, so, you can’t win enough games losing the special teams battle so we’ve got to do a better job in that area, for sure. I really liked the start of our game, I liked our energy, I liked our execution, I liked how much time we played in the O-zone. I thought Tavares’ line played in the O-zone more than they’ve played all year, that was good for us.

On Muzzin saying weird lapses led to goals:

When you go through it, the first one we had total control of the puck, managed to turn it over twice, it goes in our net. The third one – the penalty came after a turnover – and then the third one was one of those ones that, to me, it was a simple play for us and we didn’t make it. The bottom line is we’re through 20 games now and, when you evaluate what we’ve done in 20 games, we don’t like it as a group. We think we can be better and we’ll identify the areas again here tomorrow as we go through it and grind our way out of this. We got ourselves in the spot we’re in, we’ve got to grind our way out of it.

On if the team seems frustrated through 20 games:

I don’t think that’s been the case at all. I thought we’ve had good energy and I think we’ve done lots of really good things. In saying that, tonight after the first period, after the second period, you feel you’ve played really well and should be ahead in the game. You’re not ahead in the game. Just stay the course, stay patient, take care of the puck and, if you do good things in life, good things happen.

On Hyman’s return to the lineup:

Like I said to you, I thought Tavares’ line played – I don’t know how many heavy shifts they had, but they had a lot. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. I didn’t – I said it yesterday, I had no idea what to expect, I really didn’t. I didn’t know he could be out that long and still come with that energy. Maybe there’s going to be a drop, I don’t know that, but I thought he did a good job in all areas of the game.

ZACH HYMAN (17:37 TOI)

On his first game back since off-season surgery:

Felt good, felt strong. I didn’t worry about my knee which was good. Thought I just went out there and tried to play my game and just kind of pick up where I left off, which was six months ago. It’s a long time but I felt good.

On how the team can improve the penalty kill:

We’ve just got to find confidence. We’ve got to string some kills together. The bounces just aren’t going our way right now. I think if we get back on track, we’ll string a run together. That’s what good PKs do, they get on a roll and they find their confidence and it feels like you don’t get scored on ever. So, we’ll get that fixed and come back strong.

JAKE MUZZIN (1 ASSIST)

On back-to-back one goal losses:

I think we have confidence in this group, in the team and in this room. We’re just having some weird lapses in the game and it’s costing us. I think we just have to be sharper throughout a full 60, shift-to-shift, more focus, better preparation I think and we’ll come out on top in these games.

On where the team can make improvements on the penalty kill:

I don’t know. I mean we’ve got to look at the stuff, I haven’t looked at it. I don’t even know how many penalties we took tonight, how many did we take tonight? [Three] So, that’s better, but we let two goals in, so that’s not good. We’ve got to look at some stuff and clean it up.

WILLIAM NYLANDER (1 GOAL)

On tonight’s performance:

I think we played a good game for the most part. We’ve just got to sharpen up on a few things to not let them score goals.

On what prevented the power play from having success:

I think the one where we had a faceoff in the D-zone and they jumped us, we’ve got to be ready there. I mean, we’ve got to be more determined like we were in the last couple of minutes of the game.

JOHN TAVARES (1 GOAL, 1 ASSIST)

On going down early and not being able to finish the comeback:

It feels like when we do make a mistake it seems to really hurt us. Because I thought, especially in the first period, we had a pretty good first period until they got their first goal and then they capitalize on the power play and got the momentum. We played really well again in the second, didn’t come out the greatest in the third and, you know, they got another power play goal so special teams really hurt us today. It just seems like when we do make a mistake we’re getting burned. I think parts of this game we did a lot of good things. We tried to stay patient, stayed with it, got ourselves back in it, but just too many mistakes leading to too many against.

On where he sees the team after 20 games into the season:

Well, I just think we’re not where we want to be. Obviously, we want to play a lot better, a lot more consistent. We’ve got to keep working to find a way. At times it feels like it’s going against us and that’s just the nature of it. Sometimes it’s the way hockey goes, the way the game goes and you’ve just got to mentally stick with it and keep playing and keep trying to find a way to turn the tide and consistently up your level and up your consistency and get things snow balling in the right direction. We’ve had that for points in the year but we haven’t really been able to sustain it as long as we’ve liked. Obviously, something we need to continue to do and the results are obviously critical. We’ve done good things but we know we’ve got to get the job done.