The Toronto Maple Leafs added another victory against the Dallas Stars last night with thier 4-1 win. For Nazem Kadri, the win was a much-needed boost to moral and while talking to reporters, noticed Mitch Marner close by stopping mid-sentence to say lightheartedly,
“You want in here?”. I’m sitting here pumping your tires, and you’re watching?”
After two wins back-to-back for the Leafs, the mood was light as the NHL goes into the All-Star break. For Coach Babcock, the break will give the Leafs the time needed to re-evaluate and look closely at the strategy of its line-up.
With the 4-1 win against the Stars, Babcock stated,
“The great thing about is we’ve got a break, and we’ve got lots of time to think about that,” he said after Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Stars.
For Kadri, things seem to be improving, and it wasn’t just relating to the reduction of his shooting percentage. The line position change that saw Mitch Marner moved to the right side with Patrick Marleau might have even been a surprise to Coach Babcock.
The move was intended to balance and unite the line chemistry as they went out on the road. However, the move has proven to work well and is a strong argument to keep the two together next week when the New York Islanders visit the Air Canada Centre.
As expected, Kadri’s line was in its usual shutdown role and performed well when they faced Chicago and put an end to their losing streak. Tonight’s game in Dallas saw the Kadri line playing an extra six minutes as they went up against the Dallas trio of Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov and Jamie Benn.
The point of the line change was to force coaches on opposing teams to make matchup decisions of their own, and it seems the mission was accomplished in favour of the Leafs.
The line change saw Dallas Coach Ken Hitchcock choosing to split up the Seguin-Radulov-Benn line between the Matthews’s line and Kadri line. The result failed to accomplish the goal as Matthews managed to the puck in the net while Dallas’s star players Seguin-Radulov- Benn were on the bench.
Hitchcock commented stating,
“I like the way their team plays, I like the dynamic they have in their group. They use their speed to close down on people significantly, which is what you have to do in today’s NHL. They don’t use their speed just with the puck, they use it without the puck and that’s hard to play against.”
Nazem Kadri’s goal came as a result of Marleau rushing the offensive zone and getting control of the puck and passing the puck to Kadri who shot it past a frozen Ben Bishop, the Dallas goaltender.
“I’ve just got to focus on getting open because Mitchy can play with the puck.”
Adding to Kadri’s comment Marner stated,
“I just looked up and saw Bishop kind of sprawl out to me, and saw Naz come in the lane. I think a lot of guys know on our team that I’m not going to shoot a lot. I mean he told me right after that he was ready the whole time, he knew it was coming to him.”
Kadri had been in a dry spell for some but has managed to score three goals in the last two games, and clearly, this has changed the vibe for the Leafs. Babcock saw inspiration with his fourth line, which saw more than 10 minutes of ice time on Thursday.
For Babcock, it gave him the confidence he was looking for stating,
“It gives us a different look, and then with Leo there, we could put him in on a D-zone faceoff, use him all over, so that was positive for us, too. I thought Kapanen was really good for us, gave us four lines with good speed.”
Going into the All-Star break, and facing the New York Islanders upon their return, it could see this be the new norm. If that is the case, for Marner, it would be nice considering he has bounced between the four lines.
When quizzed on the idea, Marne commented,
“I mean it would be nice, I’ve enjoyed playing with them the last two games. I think our chemistry is getting a lot better and I think it’s going to keep growing.”
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