Why Mark Messier Sees ‘Massive Growth’ With Maple Leafs

A quick mix of things we got from hockey week, serious and less serious, and rolling four lanes deep. It wasn’t a different kicking move.

1. Mark Messier knows it.

The six-time Stanley Cup champion believes the Toronto Maple Leafs “took a big step forward” this season, despite their sixth consecutive playoff exit.

During a big appearance on The morning fan show On Thursday, Messier said past incarnations of the Maple Leafs simply weren’t committed to playing the kind of hockey necessary to win in the spring.

He used the Tampa Bay Lightning’s four-game shutout over the Florida Panthers as a prime example of that dedication: the details in the execution, the shot blocking, the selfless five-man support, the crucial saves and the calm mindset.

“Without that, you’re not going to win a Stanley Cup. are not you going to again in a Stanley Cup. You’re not going to win a Stanley Cup because it’s your turn. You win the Stanley Cup, that’s the only way to win,” Messier said.

“When I watched the Leafs this year, I noticed a noticeable difference in attitude and body language from (Mitch) Marner, from (Auston) Matthews, from (Morgan) Rielly. They were playing at a much more intense pace than in the other (series). It meant more. The bite hurt more. The loss hurt them more. Those are all things that you hope will help teams grow.”

Messier knows it.

I remember talking to the young stars of the Maple Leafs after they lost Game 7 at TD Garden in 2018. They seemed to take that loss relatively in stride. Why not? The future was still bright.

However, the loss to Tampa left them heartbroken. Their small voices and red eyes on the podium made you feel his pain.

“For me, they were beaten by an amazing hockey team with a lot of championship DNA and a goalie who may become the best ever. So I don’t think there’s any shame in the Leafs losing this year,” Messier said.

“I saw massive growth.”

two. Darryl Sutter was asked if the best team won the Battle of Alberta.

“The best player won the series for them,” he replied.

I love the quote, but it’s inaccurate.

“Role players on the Oilers have an impact on the series,” said Messier, who credits coach Jay Woodcroft with empowering the entire bench.

“We’re seeing that from the Oilers for the first time in a long time.”

Yes, Connor McDavid has taken one once upon a time in hollywood flamethrower to this post-season. But diminishing the contributions of the supporting cast is doing them a disservice.

Leon Draisaitl: 17 points in five games.

Zach Hyman: six goals and eight points in five games.

Evander Kane: five goals in five games.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Six points in five games.

Evan Bouchard: three goals in five games from the rear.

Darnell Nurse: Averaged 21 minutes a night and finished with a plus-4 against some of the most dangerous offensive players in the regular season.

And then there was the dramatic (and unexpected) difference on the net.

Mike Smith’s .907 save percentage may not jump off the page, but he crushed Vezina finalist Jacob Markstrom’s horrendous .852.

3. “He takes great pride in being able to say that you played with an organization for most of your career, if not all of your career,” Bryan Rust told reporters upon re-signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins and skipping a free-agent bidding war. .

We say the Penguins should be proud here, having secured a points-per-game asset for a bargain AAV of $5.125 million over six seasons. That Rust’s no-move clause goes away after three years, and his real salary goes down as well, makes the striker more mobile if age catches up with him.

A good deal from GM Ron Hextall here that should look even better when UFA forwards like Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri break someone’s bank.

Rust plays a discreet, reliable and versatile two-way game and is always a plus.

“As for hockey, the staff, the owners, the management, the players, the coaches, they all do a great job of making Pittsburgh an amazing place to play,” Rust said.

“They treat us very well; we get almost everything we could want. That definitely played a big factor.”

Four. Due to his off-season recoveries from surgery, the 2022-23 season will be deprived of Tom Wilson and Brad Marchand for the first few months.

We are going to be forced to invent controversy, right?

5. The last four TV markets: Edmonton, Denver, Tampa and leaning towards Raleigh.

The NHL may not exactly be thrilled with the number of smaller cities involved in the business half of its playoff tournament and would probably like to see a Rangers rally this weekend.

From an all-star marketing standpoint, though, the Western Conference finals couldn’t be juicier.

Connor McDavid vs. Nathan MacKinnon, with both speedy stars scoring electric goals and ultimately leading their respective organizations in a second-round hump that has dragged on for 16 years in Edmonton and 20 years in Colorado.

The firepower on both sides is off the charts.

Thank God, the first four games of the series will kick off at 8 pm ET. This will be the television date.

6. The most obvious selling angle in the East, which delivered two comparatively tame second-round series (in drama, controversy and goals), is Lightning’s bid for a treble.

Though hardly considered an underdog, Tampa will start a third straight series on the road. (Fun fact: If the Oilers and Bolts win in Round 3, the Bolts could wait until the Cup finals to have home-court advantage for the first time in these playoffs.)

So many great stats flying by during the Lightning Series’ 10-game win streak, but none more revealing than this one.

In the regular season, the Florida Panthers scored more goals than any other team in the salary cap era (337). They weren’t shut out once … until their season was on the line in Game 4, and Andrei Vasilevskiy did the Andrei Vasilevskiy thing.

At the Battle of Florida handshake line, Jon Cooper told Andrew Brunette, in an almost apologetic tone, that his goalie stole that game.

That is not the whole story.

The Lightning blocked 12.56 shots per 60 minutes in the regular season (22nd overall). That number jumped to 16.28 in the playoffs, the most of any East club to survive Round 1.

A revealing portion of Cooper’s Game 4 pep talk to his players was captured on Stanley Cup Quest:

Take the risk out of our game. We do not need it. They will put enough risk in their game for us to capitalize on it. It’s exhausting to play against us: when you defend, when you like the guys, when you’re up there, when you don’t give them time or space.

Just think about it. You think about how f——- hard it is for us to play like that. How difficult is it for them to play us when we’re doing that?

7. Another great moment from the NHL behind-the-scenes documentary miniseries took place in the Panthers’ living room before the game.

Assistant team manager Thomas Anderson jumped out of a laundry basket in the middle of the visiting room like a jack-in-the-box. He was holding a WWE style belt. He unleashed an enthusiastic roll call from the starting lineup that had the boys in stitches.

Sure, the Panthers might need to learn a thing or two about how to win, but they might as well be the champions of fun.


8. How loose is this legend of a man they call Pat Maroon?

Minutes before the puck drop for Game 6 of Round 1, featuring the Lightning vs. Toronto season, I saw Maroon in the bowels of Amalie Arena banging on the ThunderBug mascot’s electric blue drum.

Just because it was there. Because she would give him a laugh.

Maroon has 14 straight playoff series wins, matching his sweater number.

9. I appreciate Morena’s honesty in saying that he learned a lot from the sweep and that the interim coach did a fabulous job in the regular season under unforeseen circumstances.

And yet, despite his desire to stay behind the bench and the support of his players, Brunette hasn’t received the endorsement of general manager Bill Zito.

“We respect him a lot. We love playing for him,” captain Aleksander Barkov told reporters after the loss. “We love working hard for him, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

“Everyone in the room loves Bruno, and I hope he stays here for the next season and more to come.”

Understandably, Zito will be tempted to take a look at the consummate field of free agents: Barry Trotz, Paul Maurice, Claude Julien, Rick Tocchet, John Tortorella, Peter DeBoer, a returning Joel Quenneville? – before taking a decision.

Brunette struggled to find the offense when it mattered most, and Florida’s deadly power play dried up like a raisin in the sun. The Cats seemed less inspired, less desperate than their counterparts across the state.

10 Thus, Morena is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, along with Gerard Gallant and Darryl Sutter. If Gallant’s Rangers can’t start a two-game winning streak, none of the top three coaches in the NHL will have reached the semifinals.

Voting for the best coach before the playoffs begin is like reading the honor roll before final exams.

The true test of training comes face-to-face with adapting and outsmarting your opponent through a series of momentum changes.

Cooper is the longest tenured bench boss at 208 games. He is chasing a fourth final appearance and a third banner. He has never won a Jack Adams.

eleven More news from Andrew!

New York Rangers rental Andrew Copp looks like the smartest midseason truck east of Evander Kane.

The former Jet has scored 13 goals and 28 points in 28 games since the trade. He is also a plus-15 who kills penalties. Copp has more playoff goals (five) than Artemi Panarin (three) and UFA teammate Ryan Strome (one) combined.

It’s no wonder general manager Chris Drury is trying to make it more than just a rental.

“Sometimes we get too cute, we get fancy and we try those plays up high. But when we get people to go online, things open up. That is what it does very well”, praises Gallant.

Smart Winnipeg fans will root for Copp on Saturday.

If the Rangers team up to beat the Hurricanes in this series, one of the second-round picks the Jets received in the trade will be promoted to a first-round pick.

12 Watching William Nylander at the world championships is just different:

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