May 20, 2022

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Now solely the Maple Leafs sport issues.

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The Leafs have been undoubtedly on prime of their dialog on Saturday morning, hours earlier than Sport 7 in opposition to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“The temper is nice,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned after the group’s full morning run on the Scotiabank Area. “I do not really feel any nerves, I simply really feel assured and excited.”

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How about Keefe’s personal nerves?

“I haven’t got them,” Keefe mentioned. “It is as assured as I coached this group.”

Which is what Kif must be. Coming to a vital sport on residence ice in opposition to the reigning two-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning, the Leafs totally deserved their efficiency within the first six video games of the collection. After all, there have been hiccups, however Tampa, who has lots of expertise in profitable, will let you know that at occasions additionally they didn’t play good hockey.

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The winner of the first-round seven-game collection will face the Florida Panthers within the second spherical after Florida eradicated the Washington Capitals in Sport 6 on Friday night time.

This core of the Leafs hasn’t progressed past the primary spherical up to now 4 years, and it did not occur in 2017 till captain John Tavares grew to become a part of the group.

So why does this group, which has gone 0-8 in its final eight knockout video games with the identical core of gamers, suppose it’s going to have a unique report tonight?

“I am assured due to the best way we performed on the present,” Keefe mentioned. “A part of it has to do with how we performed all through the season and the way we responded to challenges, however lots of that confidence has grown with the collection.

“You don’t understand how the result of the sport will prove, however I believe the opponent might be as assured as we’re.

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“The place you’re positive, the gamers might be relaxed, the gamers will come out on the sphere, they may compete, they may play with power. That is one thing I am positive we’ll give ourselves each alternative to win the sport.”

And with the onerous classes discovered from do-or-die video games over time. In Sport 7 final spring, the Leafs have been stage with the Montreal Canadiens and misplaced 3-1. Two years in the past, within the bubble in opposition to Columbus within the qualifying spherical, the Leafs misplaced 3-0 to the Blue Jackets within the decisive Sport 5.

“I believe we did a little bit bit improper in these video games,” mentioned winger William Nylander. “Possibly a little bit afraid of dropping.

“We do not have to be afraid to lose. We’ve got an amazing group and the most effective group will win immediately.”

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An enthusiastic crowd can play within the Leafs’ favour, as they did when the Leafs beat the Lightning 5-0 in Sport 1 after which in Sport 5 when the Leafs rallied and received with rating 4:3.

“All I can do is come from what we have skilled on this collection to this point, and for me, that has little question made a distinction,” Keefe mentioned. “I anticipate immediately to be the identical. It is going to be an electrical ambiance.

“We’ve got to hint it in our sport. I do know our followers will deliver it.”

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Lightning’s motivation has totally different roots than Leaves. Whereas Toronto desires to lastly clear the primary spherical hurdle, Tampa’s victory will maintain the group motivated to enter dynasty territory with a possible third consecutive Cup.

“Expertise will not show you how to win a sport, however it might actually show you how to by powerful occasions,” Tampa Bay coach John Cooper mentioned. “You possibly can’t let the second get too massive. It is onerous to say that that is simply one other sport.

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“We aren’t stunned how good they’re. They knock on the door for therefore lengthy. I believe they’ve grown as a bunch, I believe their stars are nonetheless stars. They’ve actually good group play and the coach does a hell of a job making ready them. The Leafs have a hell of a group.”

A fan in Cooper might be comfortable to plunge into the ambiance of Saturday night time.

“A hockey night time in Canada, a sport in Toronto is nice for the game,” Cooper mentioned. “You’ve two-time champions, you will have a group with wealthy traditions, extraordinarily standard on this nation.

“These moments simply do not occur that usually. If you’re a fan of hockey or some other sport, remember to watch TV. That is an thrilling time. I am fortunate to have a entrance row seat.”

Estimated Leafs roster for Sport 7:

FORWARDS

LW-C-RW

Michael Bunting-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner

Ilya Mikheev-John Tavares-Alex Kerfoot

William Nylander-David Kampf-Pierre Engval

Jason Spezza-Colin Blackwell-Ondrej Case

DEFENSE

Morgan Rilly-Ilya Lyubushkin

Jake Mazzin-T Jay Brody

Mark Giordano-Justin Corridor

GOAL

Jack Campbell

Eric Kallgren

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