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SIMMONS: Maple Leafs’ Game 3 efficiency proves Kyle Dubas has assembled an outstanding staff


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TAMPA — The notion of firing Kyle Dubas as common supervisor of the Maple Leafs in the event that they don’t defeat the Stanley Cup champions within the opening spherical of the playoffs is a part of what life is like typically in hockey-crazy Toronto.

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By no means thoughts the logic of it — regardless of how this collection ends. Logic and Leafs Nation haven’t at all times belonged in the identical sentence.

The thought, although, that somebody must pay for not eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning in a best-of-seven collection — and that somebody being one in every of staff president Brendan Shanahan, GM Dubas, or head coach Sheldon Keefe — is attending to the purpose of being fairly ridiculous.

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And it appeared much more ridiculous after Game 3 right here at Amalie Enviornment, the place the Maple Leafs took a 2-1 lead within the collection with a hard-fought, very tight, and sometimes unimaginable to clarify 5-2 victory over the Lightning. The reality is, regardless of how this collection ends, this can be a terrific Leafs staff. That is essentially the most full Leafs staff post-1967. This can be a staff worthy of applause.

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And should you’re Dubas, the hand-picked alternative of president Shanahan, Friday night time was a purpose to be greater than happy together with your staff however happy, quietly, with your personal work. Dubas isn’t the look-at-me sort of common supervisor. He might have had that I’m-smarter-than-you angle in his early years with the Leafs however the embarrassing playoff defeats the previous two seasons have humbled him considerably.

Dubas made the deal for Jack Campbell when Frederik Andersen was nonetheless the No. 1 goalie with the Leafs. Campbell was once more a large Friday night time. And If Dubas doesn’t make the deal for Campbell, giving up the spectacular Trevor Moore within the commerce with Los Angeles, the place would the Leafs be at their most essential place?

This was an evening for the Leafs, an evening for Dubas, for coach Keefe and for Campbell.

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Toronto went up 2-0 within the first interval, simply 6:35 into the sport, in a loud and hyperactive Amalie Enviornment, on an unlikely 3-on-1 objective. Ilya Lyubushkin, the defenceman Dubas traded for in eliminating the semi-unimpressive Nick Ritchie, wound up leaving the penalty field and becoming a member of the push. Lyubushkin, not recognized for his expertise with the puck, waited simply the correct quantity of time and located fourth-liner Colin Blackwell within the slot, for the second objective.

Blackwell was the secondary piece of the Mark Giordano commerce made by Dubas simply earlier than the deadline. He was supposed to slot in someplace within the lineup — however neither Dubas nor Keefe knew precisely the place. Scoring objectives was not anticipated. Not on an help from a defenceman the Leafs acquired with none actual discover in any respect.

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That is what good common managers do. They discover components. They discover items. Drafting Auston Matthews, that was straightforward. Anybody might have accomplished that. Signing Michael Bunting, the highest scoring rookie within the NHL, there’s a sure talent in that for each the GM and the coach. They could not at all times be on the identical web page — no GM and coach ever are — however Keefe has taken the components given to him and, for essentially the most half, made one thing of them.

The Leafs went forward 3-0 early within the second interval — in a recreation that didn’t seem to be a 3-0 recreation — on the second of the collection by David Kampf, a man who isn’t supposed to attain objectives. He was a free-agent signing by Dubas final summer time. Like Blackwell and Lyubushkin, Kampf was an acquisition few in Leafland have been doing cartwheels over.

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Kampf wound up utilizing his size and pace to interrupt in on what seemed like a 2-on-1 on the nice Andrei Vasilevskiy and for the second time in three video games his wrist shot beat the all-world goalie. His breakaway in Game 1 beat Vasilevskiy excessive. His objective off a semi-breakaway in Game 3 went stick aspect.

That is the David Kampf who scored one NHL objective final season in Chicago. The man who couldn’t rating. However on the day he signed with the Leafs, an NHL coach texted me to say the Leafs made the signing of the day. Why, I requested? As a result of he can achieve this many issues defensively and Leafs are going to depend on him. And they also have. Extra defensively than offensively.

Then this playoff collection started. Matthews could also be have been snakebit on his alternatives Friday night time, however Kampf cashed within the one which mattered most.

And coach Keefe, who switched up his lineup — not dressing Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford, and including Jason Spezza to the lineup — labored in his favour. As did his in-game shuffling. Keefe eliminated Bunting from the primary line within the second half of the third interval, and changed him with Alex Kerfoot . He then went again to his favorite third line — Kampf centring Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall — all Dubas acquisitions or draft picks.

Engvall handed to the vastly improved Mikheyev for his second empty-net objective. The Leafs lead the collection 2-1. All of the discuss of firing anyone may be placed on maintain.

For now.

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