Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kampf, Aston-Reese & Lafferty
Good information for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they head into the postseason. After incomes a degree of their 2-1 time beyond regulation loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night time, the Maple Leafs clinched home-ice benefit for the primary spherical of the playoffs. Although they misplaced, that single level (coupled with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s loss to the New York Islanders) was sufficient to offer Toronto the benefit for the second yr in a row.
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Now, they are going to face the unimaginable Andrei Vasilevskiy as soon as once more, hoping for a greater outcome. In Thursday’s sport, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe gave extra ice time to among the group’s depth gamers. In reality, the group’s solely objective was scored by Sam Lafferty with an help from Zach Aston-Reese.
In this version of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll spend a while speaking concerning the group’s rising fourth line.
Item One: The Maple Leafs Fourth Line Is Gaining Traction
At the beginning of the common season, one of many group’s objectives was to create a stable fourth line. That began with Adam Gaudette (who was traded to the St. Louis Blues when Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari got here to Toronto) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (who performed all of six video games with the Maple Leafs till he was waived and picked up by the Washington Capitals). Zach Aston-Reese was introduced in on a PTO later within the preseason.
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Aston-Reese is the one remaining participant of the three, however now, with the addition of David Kampf, who moved down from the third-line middle place, and Lafferty, who was introduced in from the Chicago Blackhawks, that fourth line is beginning to actually step up and make a distinction. Not solely is the road enjoying robust defensively, however they’re additionally producing some offense and constructing chemistry as a unit.
This fourth line could be one of many largest variations (and benefits) for the Maple Leafs as they head into the postseason.
Item Two: David Kampf Has Become More Valuable by Moving Down
Last season, we discovered that David Kampf is a stable defensive middle and faceoff specialist. Winning key faceoffs within the defensive zone could be essential for fulfillment and Kampf is clearly dependable in these conditions. He additionally continues to play a gradual, dependable defensive sport. He has a knack for leaping on the opposition’s errors and scoring.
The increased the stakes, the extra precious Kampf turns into. During a post-game interview, his line-mate, Lafferty, known as him a horse. He’s that robust. Kampf fills a selected position, and he does it successfully for the Maple Leafs.
Item Three: Zach Aston-Reese Has Upped His Offense
Aston-Reese has stepped up his sport and added extra scoring to his resume. His arduous work across the web is paying off and has earned him praise from Keefe. In addition, his bodily presence and regular defensive sport are additionally precious property that give him elevated versatility as a participant.
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Having secondary scoring choices outdoors of the group’s Core Four may turn out to be a big issue within the group’s potential to make a deep run within the playoffs. Aston-Reese has the potential to do exactly that. His blue-collar mucking may present a sloppy objective which may simply turn out to be the distinction in a closely-contested playoff sport.
Item Four: Sam Lafferty Is Building After a Slow Start
Lafferty began slowly with the group, however he, too, is starting to make a distinction on the fourth line. His velocity is a big asset that might show precious, particularly within the playoffs when the tempo of the sport picks up. He’s additionally beginning to discover his scoring groove, in addition to creating extra chemistry with Aston-Reese and Kampf.
Lafferty and Aston-Reese each performed within the NCAA. Aston-Reese for Northeastern University and Lafferty for Brown. Both additionally started their skilled careers within the Pittsburgh Penguins group, enjoying for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the place had been teammates for two seasons.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The backside line is that, after getting down to create a distinct extra rugged look on their fourth line at first of the season, the Maple Leafs have finished simply that. It could be a bit totally different than deliberate, however a fourth line has been created that’s rising harder to play in opposition to.
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Could this unit discover one other gear come playoff time? Add a little bit of offense to their physicality, and the power of this unit to make a distinction in essential postseason video games is enhanced. Kampf, Aston-Reese, and Lafferty appear to be constructing chemistry and identification as a hardworking and defensively robust unit at simply the proper time.