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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 6, 2020
Neither Morgan Rielly nor Tyson Barrie want to mess this up.
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe is giving the offensively talented pair of defencemen the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do together, and each wants to ensure Keefe has made a prudent decision.
Doubters might say the two won’t have the proper defensive awareness to make it work.
Two games in, Barrie and Rielly are confident they together can be sharp at each end of the ice.
“We both have played a lot of games, we’re both responsible enough and veteran enough to know what’s too much (as far as taking risks),” Barrie said. “If we see we’re getting kind of crazy and jumping in too much, then we’ll reel it back.
“I think once we get rolling we can we can definitely control the play and make it a nightmare for other teams.”
That wasn’t the way Rielly necessarily put it after the Leafs beat the St. Louis Blues 5-2 on Saturday night to successfully start a four-game trip that also has stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, but he might have agreed.
“Our first two games together we have had periods of time where it has been good and at the same time, there has been probably more D-zone time than we would like,” Rielly said. “We were kind of laughing afterward (in St. Louis) because in the third we felt like we broke out pretty good and made some plays.
“It’s a work in progress, but we both want to make it work. We both want the puck and we both want to give it to someone who’s going to do something with it.”
Mike Babcock had no appetite for using Rielly and Barrie as a pair before he was relieved by Keefe on Nov. 20.
Keefe knows what he wants from the duo, and has confidence it will make the Leafs better in the long run.
“We want those guys to be producing offensively and contributing and jumping into holes and being threats getting shots and all those things,” Keefe said. “At the same time, we have expectations that they would keep the puck away from our net and help us on the breakout.
“They have abilities to produce offensively and they’ve shown that and done that over their careers. We also want to make sure that the defensive side of it is there. We’re going to need that complete game from them.”
It helps that Rielly and Barrie have come to know each other quite well during past off-seasons in B.C., well before the trade with Colorado that brought Barrie to Toronto in July.
“Absolutely — we spend a lot of time together,” Barrie said. “It’s funny. We get put together and we’re like ‘Okay, let’s not to screw this up.’ We want it too badly.”
Travis Dermott’s teammates weren’t quite sure what to make of the defenceman’s fight in the third period with the Blues’ Troy Brouwer, which counted as the Leafs’ first of the season and the first of Dermott’s NHL career.
“I’m not really sure what he was looking for out there, but it happened and I think their guy was trying to get their team going after their goal (by David Perron that cut the Leafs lead to three goals),” centre Auston Matthews said.“ Dermy held his own and stood up for himself, so good for him, but I was not expecting (a fight) out of him.”
Barrie doesn’t see a fighting future for Dermott.
“I don’t think so,” Barrie said with a smile. “That was kind of a weird one.”
Rielly, naturally, was looking forward to the Leafs’ lone visit of 2019-20 to his home town. “It’s just good to rest the body, and try to take advantage of that,” said Rielly, who is averaging a career-high 24 minutes 42 seconds of ice time a game. “I think I need that. It will be nice to be back on the West Coast with the good ocean air.” … The Leafs had Sunday off in Vancouver after flying west immediately following the game in St. Louis. The club is scheduled to practise on Monday … Zach Hyman’s five shots on goal against the Blues were one shy of his career-high for one game. Hyman, who scored two goals, has had six shots on goal three times in the NHL, including twice this season … The Leafs’ best line in possession on Saturday night was the Hyman-John Tavares-Mitch Marner trio, as it was effective against Ryan O’Reilly’s line at both ends … Recent visits to Vancouver by the Leafs have left the club wanting more. The Leafs have lost each of their past three at Rogers Arena, including one in overtime, one by one goal in regulation and one in a shootout. Toronto’s most recent win in the building came on Feb. 13, 2016, when the long-forgotten Mark Arcobello paced the Leafs with two goals in a 5-2 victory … A guess, and it’s only that, that if Keefe uses Hutchinson on the trip, it comes on Thursday in Calgary. Frederik Andersen will have had more than enough rest to play against the Canucks, and there’s zero chance Hutchinson gets the call on Saturday against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019