The journey across the hiking trail that connects the JW Marriott to Rogers Place is familiar to anyone who spent time in Edmonton during the NHL’s Western Balloon last summer.
Hell, it’s already a worn-out road for a group of Toronto Maple Leafs players who kept things pretty locked up despite the imperceptibly warm weather they found on their second business trip this season.
“Mostly you’re just on the rink and in your hotel room,” Leafs defense agent TJ Brodie said, feeling deja vu after spending part of August doing the same thing in the same place with Calgary Flames. .
“I guess it’s about the same (like summer). Obviously you can go out if you want, but other than that it’s the same. “
Add him to the list of things that made the 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday so impressive.
Essentially and in style, it looked like a reasonable copy of the game they had played 48 hours earlier in the same building, all the way to the fact that they decisively grabbed two more points with Auston Matthews and Frederick Andersen watching the injured from the stands.
In this second set of three games, the Maple Leafs also fell next to goalkeeper Jack Campbell after reversing a previous leg injury while bringing off on Saturday night. No interference. Michael Hutchinson, No. 4 on the team’s in-depth standings in January, boosted another strong performance and stopped 31 shots to become two Leafs donuts in a row.
“I just want to open it with comments about our goalkeepers. I think the past two nights have been extraordinary and I don’t think they have enough credit, ”said Morgan Rielly ago getting any questions on your Zoom call after the game.
That the backups brought down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is proof of their performance, but also the level of connected play that the Leafs tried to achieve last season. They really settle into the slot and sit at an absurd 17-4-2 – a good eight-point advantage over Edmonton, head and shoulders above the rest in the Northern Division.
Equally important, they are slowly calming some former demons. In recent years, they have been prone to interference. And this season played in the midst of a pandemic is full of many for everyone involved.
Still, Leafs wasn’t happy after Saturday’s big win, or they were caught up another night without key collaborators, or they were thrown out of the way as they walked there and back for 72 hours indoors between the hotel and the rink.
“It was a big area of growth for us,” Rielly said.
“Last year we had a lot of games where we were completely dominant, but I think we also had games where we were completely falling apart,” Travis Dermott noted. “I think this year we really focused on being consistent and showing up every day – whether we play, train or it’s a non-working day and we have to take care at home – I think everyone is just buying a team plan that we will be ready for. go every day. “
After arguably the most complete win of the season on Saturday, head coach Sheldon Keefe did an animated workout on Sunday afternoon. He believes his team has reached a point where it has been proven that it can defend well, and the drop in attacks and dangers against it is proof of that.
On Monday, they gave up a few more than they would have liked, but some early defenders of McDavid and Dominik Kahun set the table for a 3-0 lead with the first break. Zach Hyman and William Nylander continued their hot streaks – Hyman scoring in the second straight game and Nylander fourth in the last three – before Rielly broke one in Power Play over Mikko Koskinen.
That brought Toronto their third win of the season with Matthews out of the squad, and all three came against Edmonton. The first, at the Scotiabank Arena on January 22, instilled a certain confidence.
They win all the time no matter who falls.
“We have been here for a long time without Wayne Simmonds. We played without Joe (Thornton), now we play without Auston “, said Keefe. We played without (Frederik Andersen), we played without (Jake Muzzin).
“It really forces you to go back to your structure, play as a team, make the guys step up at key moments.”
There is no guarantee that any of the injured players will return to the series against Edmonton on Wednesday night.
So the challenge can remain constant: prepare for the first two NHL scorers, find a way to make up for your own lineup losses, and keep your mind fresh as you walk back and forth along the most boring track in hockey.
Oh, and maybe I find some time for a socially remote conversation with Zach Bogosian, who raised the Stanley Cup in Edmonton just over five months ago. He has a great balloon story.
“I think we’ve obviously been here a long time. Our dining room at the hotel, it was a slightly different scene the night we won, ”Bogosian said. “It’s just great to be back. Obviously I’ll remember that forever, well, yeah, it’s nice. “
Sometimes there is a little excitement on the other side of the monotony.