Friday, December 3

Canadiens hope free time will work as an advantage over Maple Leafs


Auston Matthews seems to have a firm grasp on the NHL’s goalscorer title.

With 16 goals, Toronto Maple Leafs center forward has four more than the next in line, Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser, and six more than the next three, including Edmonton Oilers power forward Leon Draisaitl entering the action of the Friday.

Matthews added two goals and two assists in the Leafs’ 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday to extend their scoring streak to 15 games.

“I’m just trying to shoot what’s open, to be honest,” Matthews said. “The puck is coming into the net right now, which is great, but the most important thing is that we are winning hockey games.”

Matthews gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 10:29 of the first period with a power play goal, then scored his second at 7:37 p.m., hitting a loose puck in front of the Senators’ net. .

“He’s separating the goalkeepers; they really don’t have a chance,” said teammate William Nylander. “He’s also doing it consistently, which is incredible. With his shot and where he scores from, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

While Matthews continued his scoring streak, Joe Thornton has two goals and six points in three games since returning from a fractured rib that kept him out for 10 games.

He had one goal and two assistants against the senators.

“I’ve been feeling good,” Thornton said. “It’s good for me to have a lot of games in a row like this to make up my time. I like to shoot every other night and play a lot of games, so I think (the workload) will help me.”

The Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday in a battle of the top two teams in the NHL Northern Division. The Canadiens have not played since last Saturday when they beat the Leafs 2-1, ending a four-game winning streak in Toronto.

After this six-day hiatus, the Canadiens now launch into a hectic schedule with 41 games in 78 days.

Defender Ben Chiarot appreciated the time out.

“If you’ve played a few years, you understand the routine, you understand how you have to be mentally when you get to the court, and it is very important to be able to turn it off when you come home.” said the 29-year veteran.

He tried not to think about hockey while he was off the rink all week except for light skates and practice.

“If you’re thinking about it, or if you don’t have that to get off the rink and take your mind off hockey, it can wear you down,” Chiarot said. “I think that resting and getting away from the court is important, especially with a schedule like the one we are going to have, two months of playing every other day.”

The extended break had its good and bad points for left winger Tomas Tatar.

His free time started a day earlier than the rest of his team, as last Saturday was a healthy scratch against the Leafs.

“I was kind of sad that there are no more games because you want to get out asap and play, and just be hungry and show that you want to be in the lineup,” Tatar said. “But on the other hand, that schedule is very, very difficult, so I’m sure the guys were very happy to have this kind of stage where we can correct our things and we can work on our things to be a better team.” .

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said Tatar needs to step up and be a bigger part of the lineup as the team faces a busy schedule down the stretch to the playoffs.

“For us to be successful this year, we are going to need everyone,” Julien said. “That includes Tomas Tatar.”

Tatar has four goals and eight points in 14 games. It is reasonable that Julien expects a season of more than 20 goals from the Slovak forward.

“He’s a guy who can really help us,” Julien said. “You cannot read anything in the fact that he missed a game. We will see him in the lineup, and we hope he can contribute what he can contribute.

“We work with him. We show him the things that we would like him to improve. We want a little more of him because we know he’s there. It’s as simple as that.”

–Field level media




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