Every so often Mark Scheifele scans the National Hockey League schedule to see when a certain team is playing next.
“I’m a fan of watching the Maple Leafs play right now,” the Winnipeg Jets centre said on Saturday following his team’s morning skate at the Air Canada Centre.
“They’re a fun team to watch. They are high-energy, have a high-octane offence.”
Another reason why Scheifele likes watching the Leafs play? They remind him the club that he has helped make one of the top teams in the NHL.
“We have our (Blake) Wheelers, (Dustin) Byfugliens, they have their older guys like (Tyler) Bozak, (James) van Riemsdyk, (Ron) Hainsey.” Scheifele said. “It’s a cool mix (with budding stars and savvy veterans). That draft (in 2016) with Patty (Laine) and (Auston) Matthews, seeing both teams grow around players like that is great.”
The respect between the teams goes both ways.
“The guy in Winnipeg you never hear about, Chevy (general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff), he has done an unbelievable job,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “He was a serial winner in the (International Hockey League), everywhere he went he has won and he has built a program there.
“They’ve got lots of good players and obviously we feel we’re going in the right direction here too. Only time is going to tell for both of us.”
The Jets will participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in seven seasons after re-locating from Atlanta; the Leafs have made the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since the early 2000s.
Both teams have the foundation that indicates they should be contending for years to come.
“You don’t have a season like this on what looks like a quick turnaround,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “It never is. Speaking for our team, the quality of our game was probably a lot higher than our results showed last year.
“We got really pounded by injuries. We knew we were going in the right direction. The timing of it, we did not know. A lot of things we invested in started to pay off.”
It’s not a stretch to suggest the Leafs and Jets could meet in the Cup final one day in the not-too-distant future and you can’t blame the Leafs if they’re okay with having to face Laine just twice each regular season.
“Once he gets up set up in that position where he is scoring most of his goals from, the top of the circle, the one-timers, the quick-release shots, the damage is already done,” Hainsey said. “The idea is to keep him out of the zone much as possible. But when they do get in there, you’re better off having somebody really close to him, whether it be 5-on-5 or on the power play.
“Similar to how you deal with (Alex) Ovechkin. Once he does get it off, you’re at the mercy of where it goes. Both those guys have the ability to score from that spot, better than anyone, it seems, in recent memory.”
Leafs teammate Mitch Marner concurred.
“His shot — (Laine) is very good at finding a soft spot and getting the puck,” Marner said, “and usually it’s no mistake for him to put that in.”
Will Babcock try to get Matthews’ power-play unit more minutes in the Leafs’ final games? “If they earn them,” Babcock said. “I think they’ve been way better here of late. It’s hard to get him reps when (Matthews wasn’t dressed (because of injuries).” … Babcock opened his morning availability by saying he was getting “beat up so bad” by assistant coach Andrew Brewer and video analyst Jordan Bean in the coach’s office when the topic is Corsi. “Here it is: We put five or six things on the board every single game (to be tracked) and that’s one of them,” Babcock said. “Just one of them.” The other five things? “I’m not telling you,” Babcock said. Figure on zone entries and zone starts as a couple of the others.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies