Tavares’ point-a-game pace, overall example bringing respect from Leafs teammates

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Morgan Rielly’s post-game summation of Maple Leafs captain John Tavares on Saturday night was concise.

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“He looks as good as I’ve ever seen him look,” the Leafs defenceman said after Toronto beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 at Scotiabank Arena.

“He’s as strong as he is, focused, working as hard as I’ve ever seen.

“He’s motivated. He’s a guy we look to. He really sets a tone.”

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With his second three-point game of the season — Tavares scored two goals and assisted on Mitch Marner’s empty-netter in the final minute — Tavares has 12 points in 12 games and has been a catalyst as the Leafs have turned their fortunes around with a five-game winning streak.

While no player is fully satisfied with his game, consider Tavares completely back, and then some, from the horrific injuries he suffered in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens last spring. The concussion and knee injury that befell him in Game 1 vs. Montreal are long in the past.

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“I had a great off-season, recovered well and felt really good about training camp and built some confidence there,” Tavares said. “I’ve just continued to believe in myself and my game.

“Knowing that I’m in a good spot with my role and where my game is and who I am personally as a player (is key), and what I have to do to help this team.

“I don’t ever take it for granted, and going through something like that (against Montreal and the recovery) only heightens it more. You go out there and enjoy it and make the most of it.”


Tavares was 13-7 in the faceoff circle … With 11 points in his past five games, we could say Marner is running himself back into town, couldn’t we? The inconsistency in his interest during the first handful of games is gone. The Marner we’ve come to know has returned … Auston Matthews scored two power-play goals in one game for the fourth time in his NHL career and first since Feb. 20 at Montreal, the only game in the shortened 2020-21 season he did it … Tavares had a terrific chance to give the Leafs a lead midway through the second period, but was stopped by Linus Ullmark on a breakaway. That save came between the two Tavares goals — one in the first period after a review when the Bruins net came off and one in the third, just after the Leafs captain finished serving a hooking minor. During that penalty, Jack Campbell made a sharp kick save on a Patrice Bergeron drive … Campbell denied David Pastrnak on a one-timer in the second period, making hockey the only instance where one could say Soup was better than Pasta. The Bruins forward got one to fall in the third, however, blasting a Brad Marchand pass into the net. That was the sixth goal of the game and the first of the night that was not scored by a first-overall NHL draft pick … It was Tavares’ first two-goal game since April 20 at Vancouver. He didn’t have two goals in any other game last season … Wayne Simmonds is overdue. His only goal came in the Leafs’ third game, but he has been getting his chances. On Saturday, Ullmark denied Simmonds on the doorstep after a pass from Jason Spezza … When Jake Muzzin is on his game, he is crushing people, and he got his body on more than a few Bruins, giving Karson Kuhlman a rough ride a couple of times. This can be seen only as a good thing for the Leafs and Muzzin, whose struggles in the early going have been out of the ordinary for the savvy veteran.

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Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said the club should have a better idea on Sunday of the status of goaltender Petr Mrazek, who tweaked his groin this past week. It’s related to the injury, Keefe said, that kept Mrazek out for two weeks in October. In turn, the Leafs recalled goalie Joseph Woll from the Toronto Marlies, and Woll backed up Campbell against Boston … Defenceman Travis Dermott heard his name mentioned as a possible choice for the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, and it never happened as the Kraken took Jared McCann off Toronto’s list of available players. Now, Dermott is hearing the rumours that he could be part of a trade. “I’ll keep doing what I do until something happens, if it’s going to happen,” Dermott said. “The best I can do for myself is come in here and show what I have every day. I’m in the blue and white now and that’s where my heart is.” … The only player who will score a prettier goal than Connor McDavid is McDavid. It’s early in the season, so calling the crazy play (we’re sure you’ve seen it, and more than once) by the Edmonton Oilers superstar against the New York Rangers on Friday the goal of the year is premature. McDavid has plenty of time to score a better one, and we won’t be surprised if he does. “Beautiful goal,” Dermott said. “Reminds me of all the times I played with him (with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League) and he maybe burned me like that in practice. It’s a special player making a special play.”

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