Energized Leafs snap losing skid in Sheldon Keefe’s debut in Arizona — even Tyson Barrie scored
- If there was a Maple Leaf who seemed happiest about Sheldon Keefe’s arrival as the team’s 31st head coach, and the list of candidates was long, it was easy to make a case for Tyson Barrie.
- Barrie’s 23 games with Mike Babcock as head coach coincided with the worst slump of the defenceman’s career.
- Among the most offensively potent blue-liners in the league during the previous two seasons in Colorado, under Babcock he’d posted a grand total of seven points, all assists.
- His 59 shots on net were the most of any NHLer who’d yet to score a goal this season.
- In the lead-up to Thursday night’s 3-1 win here over the Coyotes — a long-awaited victory that broke a six-game winless streak — Barrie called Keefe’s promotion to head coach “a new lease.”
- And Barrie certainly occupied the new territory well, scoring his first goal as a Maple Leaf to open the scoring on an aggressive move off the point and a pinpoint wrister that beat Darcy Kuemper.
“I think (the team is) excited,” Barrie said before the game. “You don’t ever want to see a coach get let go. It means a team’s underperforming … But now we’ve got to look at it as a fresh start. This is a chance for us to find ourselves and really get going.”
- Certainly the Leafs looked like a different version of themselves in their first game in the post-Babcock era.
- They skated with more zip, occupied the offensive zone with more authority and creativity, spent far less time hemmed in their own end than in many recent outings.
- And they actually smiled, both at the morning skate and in the course of their work night, something you didn’t regularly see under Babcock.
- It was one game, sure, but it was a promising one.
- The only down moment came with 16 seconds to play, when Vinnie Hinostroza’s goal busted what would have been Frederik Andersen’s first shutout in more than a year.
- Though the Leafs began the day in 25th place in the 31-team league as measured by points percentage, a new optimism was palpable.
- Barrie, for one, said it meant something that he was used on the team’s No. 1 power-play unit during morning skate — although Toronto didn’t manage a power-play opportunity on the night.
“I think they’re just trying to get me more involved and trying to get me in a position to be successful,” Barrie said.
Sources & Credits: Dave Feschuk, The Star
NHL Highlights | Maple Leafs vs Coyotes – Nov. 21, 2019
“I think our whole team was a little more aggressive and had a little bit more speed through the neutral zone. We had a lot of fun out there tonight and I think it showed.”
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 22, 2019