Sports Babcock worries about Leafs’ conditioning after break

07:05  14 january  2018
07:05  14 january  2018 Source:   Toronto Star

Leafs shuffle defence pairings ahead of first game back from five-day break

  Leafs shuffle defence pairings ahead of first game back from five-day break The Leafs’ defensive pairings had a slightly different look at the morning skate Tuesday, where the team prepared for its first game back after a five-day break.Based on the skate, it looks like the Leafs will have their top pairing — Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey — intact for Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis; the bottom two pairings, though, will see Jake Gardiner paired with Connor Carrick, while Roman Polak and Travis Dermott will make up the final pairing.If those pairings stick for the game, it means Andreas Borgman will be a healthy scratch.Dominic Moore and Josh Leivo appear to be the healthy scratchers among the forwards.

Players could have a challenge "getting the motor running" again, coach suggests.

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock says the “fun” of the playoffs will keep Toronto’s energy high after the first two games against the Washington Capitals went into overtime.

The Leafs are on a five-day break, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn't mean Mike Babcock has to be happy about it.© Liam Richards The Leafs are on a five-day break, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn't mean Mike Babcock has to be happy about it.

Mike Babcock knew the likelihood of his players taking their skates with them during a five-day break was next to nil. But the Maple Leafs coach was concerned about the potential effects of his players being off skates during their annual bye week.

Those affects are not considered major: The players were given workout plans by the Leafs sports sciences staff, and are expected to follow it even if they are visiting beaches in Florida, California and Mexico.

Leafs’ Auston Matthews scoring but not soaring, Babcock says

  Leafs’ Auston Matthews scoring but not soaring, Babcock says With six goals in the seven games since returning to the Maple Leafs lineup on Dec. 23, Auston Matthews certainly is putting up the kind of number that impress. Coach Mike Babcock said his star centre, though, is not quite all the way back.“The measure of you people is whether he scored or not,” said Babcock. “The measure for me is does he skate? Does he play 200 feet? Does he dominate the game? “Anytime you’ve been out for periods of time like he has, you don’t skate as good as you normally do. So that’s probably still in process.

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Players have discussed how long is too long when it comes to a break from skating every day. Some have said they draw the line at 48 hours during the season; they believe they can lose sharpness and conditioning if the wait any longer. Even in the off-season, players are rarely off skates for more than a couple of weeks.

Some Leafs, such as Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, and Travis Dermott, worked out and skated most days last summer. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who leads the NHL in scoring, remained in Tampa last summer to work on his skating and his overall game. He rented the Amalie Arena ice five days a week for workouts.

Babcock, who is as dedicated as any pro athlete to his personal workout routines, remained in regular contact with his players over the summer, ensuring they were on top of their off-season regimens. During this break, he’ll be putting faith in the sports sciences department, rather than speed-dialing his players.

Dermott moves up as Leafs look for redemption against Blue Jackets

  Dermott moves up as Leafs look for redemption against Blue Jackets The Maple Leafs are looking for a measure of revenge on Monday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Air Canada Centre.Goalie Frederik Andersen will be in the Leafs net as they try to avenge a 4-2 loss in Columbus on Dec. 20.“They slapped us around the last time we were in their building, so we have to be ready to play,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. The Blue Jackets did not skate Monday morning, after having played against Florida — a 3-2 shootout win — on Sunday. It’s expected backup Joonas Korpisalo, who beat the Leafs last time out, will start in net for the Blue Jackets.Babcock hopes the Blue Jackets are the more tired team. The Leafs had Sunday off.

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“As a younger coach, I would have wanted the players to take their skates to the Bahamas and find some ice to skate on” Babock said. “You and I both know that ain’t happening. So you pick the battles you can.

“We have a good sports sciences team, they have good information on how (players) can help themselves, and we go from there. Any time you take time off, getting the motor running and getting skating again is not as easy as you may think.”

The break stems from the last round of CBA talks, when the players’ union negotiatied a mandatory five-day break for every team during the 82-game season.

And while the players will not have a break for the Olympics this season, they will have another five day layoff for the NHL all-star festivities at the end of January.

While Babcock is a firm believer in remaining prepared and sharp throughout the entire season, the players see benefits in loosening their focus on what is now a year-long strength and conditioning regimen.

Refreshed Leafs put the focus back on defence

  Refreshed Leafs put the focus back on defence Auston Matthews and his Maple Leafs teammates say they will tighten up defensively as they head into the post-break schedule, where they expect increased checking and intensity from their opposition over the final 37 games of the season.Matthews and his teammates met with the coaching staff Monday in their first practice after the break, and the message was clear: renew the focus on defence or risk dropping out of the team’s current fourth-place standing in the Eastern Conference.© Mark Blinch Auston Matthews is slightly ahead of his pace of a year ago, with 19 goals and 33 points in 35 games. He had 18 and 31 after 35 games as a rookie.

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“Hopefully, get away and enjoy some positive energy,” Leafs centre Nazem Kadri said before the break, “. . . and catch some sun, because there hasn’t been too much here in Toronto.”

The Leafs are back to work at 4 p.m. Monday, the earliest time allowed under the CBA deal, and will face St. Louis the next night. The Blues will be coming off a six-day break.

Senators coach Guy Boucher is more familiar with in-season breaks than most NHL coaches, given his coaching tenure in Europe, where teams enjoy several breaks during a season.

Boucher, like Babcock, was concerned with the effects on skating and conditioning but said there is no sense in trying to figure out the perfect way to keep players sharp.

“We had breaks in Europe and we tried everything, and nothing worked,” said Boucher, who coached SC Bern in Switzerland before coming the the NHL. “All teams are in the same boat there.”

The NHL has tried to schedule teams coming off bye weeks against each other.

“That way, you don’t get a team that has been playing regularly facing a team that is coming off the break,” Boucher said. “You’d definitely notice the difference there. The teams that have been playing would be way ahead of the ones that have been away. It wouldn’t be a good game, I don’t think.”

Why Babcock likes Polak and Komarov .
Going into a break with a playoff spot well in hand, the Maple Leafs are 11 points clear of their nearest pursuer -- for third place -- in the Atlantic Division.Granted, most of the others have three, or four games in hand. Still it's a nice bulge, even if the Leafs have left a few points on the table in the last two games.But a large aspect of Leafs Nation does not seem happy. It seems to me Maple Leafs fans are never quite happy unless they get to complain about some aspect of their team.Three themes have emerged: Roman Polak, Leo Komarov and Mike Babcock's coaching decisions.

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