Leafs’ power-play impresses against Wings in pre-season finale

New assistant coach Paul McFarland's unit tallies 3

The Toronto Maple Leafs' second power-play unit celebrating William Nylander's second period goal. Courtesy @MapleLeafs Twitter

Toronto Maple Leafs dominated in a 5-0 Saturday home victory over the Detroit Red Wings to round-out the preseason ahead of Wednesday’s regular-season opener.

The host’s force was felt on the power play in this Original Six matchup, as each of their two units managed to convert on opportunities allowed to them.

It isn’t easy going 3-for-4 with the man-advantage but the Leafs proved able to do just that.

Forward Auston Matthews pointed to the skill of the units as a key.

“We’ve got … lots of guys that can put the puck in the net and make plays all-around,” said Matthews, in the Toronto dressing room. “When you get a couple of different looks and a couple of goals from each unit, it definitely gives us an advantage and makes it tough on the [opposing] penalty kill.”

Special teams coach Paul McFarland, 33, joined the team last May after departing the Florida Panthers organization, where he ran the league’s second-ranked power play last season. It had a 26.8 per cent success rate, for a team that failed to make the playoffs. 

The native of Richmond Hill, Ont., replaced former Leafs assistant D.J. Smith, who was named head coach of the Ottawa Senators during the summer.

He has continued to instil his offensive schemes upon a talented Maple Leafs squad and it clearly showed tonight.

“There’s lots of really good things about it,” said head coach Mike Babcock, during his media availability. “It’s just a matter of time. I think we’ve got a good scheme and good players, so ideally it’ll work.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go as good as you want, you’ve just got to keep doing good things and it’ll happen. I thought we had good tenacity tonight.”

William Nylander tallied Toronto’s first extra-man goal, with a laser to beat Jimmy Howard in the second period. The deceptive shot fooled nearly everyone in the building, entering and exiting the net almost instantly.

Detroit challenged the 3-0 goal for offside but was instead assessed a delay of game infraction after the call on the ice was confirmed — a new rule for this season. That’s when the floodgates opened.

Toronto’s top power-play unit dominated off of the ensuing face-off and produced another goal 1:05 after Nylander’s. Matthews was credited with his fifth score in four pre-season games.

“When you shoot the puck a couple of times and get them to spread out, our skill just takes over and we just make plays,” said Matthews. “It’s nice to get a couple on the power play here and carry that into the regular season.”

John Tavares added Toronto’s third power-play tally, courtesy of a nifty feed from Matthews.

In 2018-19, the Leafs’ power play ranked 14th in the league with a 21.8 per cent conversion rate.

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Posted: Sep 28 2019 10:52 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports Toronto Maple Leafs