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Why Zach Aston-Reese plays the best hockey with the Maple Leafs

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Apr 4, 2023 11:46 p.m

Toronto – A small splinter group formed during a Toronto Maple Leafs practice.

Goalkeeper coach Curtis Sanford spends more time with the net-makers, getting them used to stopping pucks, while assistant coach Manny Malhotra works with sloppy scorers Ryan O’Reilly and Zach Aston-Reese on assists and rebounds.

Those swing drills have skyrocketed since the arrival of 2019 champion Con Smith in Toronto, and it may be no coincidence that Aston Race’s performance accelerated so soon after the start.

Aston Reese smiled when asked why his touch had improved around flying pucks: “Maybe Ryan O’Reilly would come along.”

“That’s fun. You work on the core, you work on that bounce, you play it like a game mode.”

On Tuesday, the winger helped score twice, including the game-winner, as the Maple Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2.

Aston Reese scored their ninth goal and tenth of the season, scoring double figures for the first time in a six-year career.

Aston Reese were hit with health scrapes shortly after the trade deadline when general manager Kyle Dubas sought to pick two quality competitive players in Sam Laverty and Noel Accciari.

Sheldon Keefe emphasized the need to blow bubbles to increase fitness and energy. The coach demanded two things: effort and consistency.

Whether it’s internal competition, role clarity or the expectation of a playoff, the Aston Race have played the best hockey in Toronto over the past month.

“I know they want me to be physical and end up in check, not have to blow guys up every night. It’s just being tough and aggressive with the puck,” Aston Race said.

Notice your teammates on the other team.

Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s third line from Aston Race, Lafferty and David Kampf set the tone in this line, both Mitchell Marner and Aston Matthews said.

“He really embraced that role. He did a great job around tips, getting second rebounds,” Marner said.

“He was an eccentric who held himself back, controlled people, used his body and got rid of his influence.”

The hard work is starting to pay off as Aston Race has seen his time on the ice increase to an average of 12:35 over the course of three games in April, up two and a half minutes from March.

Keife refers to the chemistry formed from a Kemph medium.

Essentially, Aston-Reese have linked up with the third line position previously held by Pierre Engvall, and they have recently benefited from an 11 and 7 formation.

“They’re excited about it. They get more ice time. They want to do a good job for the team and a good job for the coach,” Keefe said.

The ten goals are excellent. But when you’re skating behind one of hockey’s top six players, the coach doesn’t ask you, “How much?” He asks, “How?”

“Burn the proper target for a man like him. He doesn’t cheat out of offense. The odd man doesn’t rush. He works for it. He’s around the net. Whether she hits it with balls or turns inside, she finds pucks in the hole,” said Keef.

“It all comes from a really good process and hard work. Be above the puck. Be physical. All the time, don’t give up anything defensively.”

Matthews noted that Aston Race had won more than 50/50 fights and cited his increased determination – characteristics invaluable when dropping the puck against Tampa.

“The way he plays, that’s what you need from a 20 man,” Matthews said.

Quick Focus 5

• Forget testing the depth of Toronto’s defense.

Named by Christopher Columbus VII GUARD OF THE SEASON – Cambridge, Ontario, home of Jet Graves.

The 22-year-old father, born to a taekwondo fighter and named after martial arts star Jet Li, was thrilled to make his NHL debut at the same arena where he would come cheer on goalkeeper Fredrik Andersen whom he idolized. follow him.

“Every time I play hockey, I feel happy,” Graves told reporters. “Every time I get the chance to come home and play in Canada, to be on the Canadian airwaves, that’s the most special thing.”

Despite the loss, the trapped Graves set a franchise record for most saves in his debut (46).

• Nick Abruzzese points per game in the NHL this season: 2 overtime calls in 2 games.

Keefe is a popular forward and more advanced than he played nine games with the Leafs around the same time last season.

“It’s faster,” Keefe says. “You definitely look more confident with the puck and more assertive. He’s shown in both games he’s played here that if he gets the puck in the right place, he’ll play with it.”

• Johnny Goudreau has gone from his career high plus 64 last season to his career worst – 32 this year. (To be fair, the Blue Jackets have -102 goal difference.) Oops.

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• Ilya Samsonov, Russian, chose not to have pride badges on his helmet. He was not made available to speak about his decision.

In the past, Elijah has supported Pride events with the Washington Capitals. “With the new law introduced in Russia last December, it certainly created uncertainty about his family’s safety at home,” Mark Fraser, the Maple Leafs’ director of culture and inclusion, said during the show.

“From my personal point of view the work I’ve been able to do with the team, with the club and with the players, Elia is the one who definitely joined. He really loves our game and believes the game should be accessible and inclusive for everyone.”

• Brad Larsen in training the East Center team at the East Center:

“To be honest, at the halfway point I was really frustrated and angry – and it got me nowhere. You have to go the other way. … It was a difficult year in many ways. Of course, we had higher expectations.”

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