Nylander controversial for Maple Leafs in Game 2 of Eastern 1st Round

Nylander controversial for Maple Leafs
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If the forward is unavailable again Toronto must find a way against the Bruins

BOSTON — William Nylander remains controversial for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Bruins Bruins on Monday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, NESN, SN, TVAS, CBC) because of an undisclosed injury.

In an optional morning skate Sunday the forward participated, in the best-of-7 series opener one day after Toronto lost 5-1. After being a game-time decision Nylander did not play Saturday.

In the Maple Leafs’ regular-season finale, it is believed Sunday was the first time Nylander was on the ice since playing 17:29, on Wednesday a 6-4 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“On ‘Willy no updates,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe stated.

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How is he holding up?

“No updates on Willy,” Keefe repeated.

For Toronto Nylander played all 82 regular-season games and completed second on the team in scoring with an NHL career-high 98 points (40 goals, 58 assists), trailing only Auston Matthews (107 points; 69 goals, 38 assists). In the NHL in points, Nylander finished 10th.

The healthy members of the Maple Leafs’ four primary forwards — Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares – in Game 1 were held off the score sheet, a sign of how much Nylander was needed.

“He’s a huge part of our team,” forward Ryan Reaves said. “A guy who can place the puck in the net, by himself a guy who can break out the puck. He can carry the play and does a little bit of everything. Especially in the playoffs, you need those guys on the ice.

“Yeah, he’s missed. I don’t know what his status is; hopefully, he’s ready to go. You want a healthy group for sure.”

Toronto defenseman Jake McCabe said Nylander appeared to be in “great spirits” Sunday.

“Willy does so many great things for us,” McCabe said. “Apparently out of nothing plays, he can create by himself, frankly. He’s a threat all over the ice aggressively for us, he kills penalties for us too. He’s a good leader for us in the room. So yeah, in a lot of areas.”

Eight straight regular losses by the Maple Leafs- and playoffs games to the Bruins, including five in 2023-24.  Boston has lost six consecutive playoff series, including four since 2013. In eight consecutive playoff games scoring two goals or fewer, they have gone.

But they believe they can recover.

“we’ve done it,” Reaves stated. “We’ve had many times where we couldn’t win a couple of games, we come back and hang a lot together. We’ve had games where we got absolutely waxed and came back the next day strong. About the bounce back I’m not worried.”

Keefe focused that the Maple Leafs did not have to alter their plan or their approach against the Bruins. After taking six penalties in Game 1 they just need to execute and stay out of the penalty box.

They need to have short memories.

“The ‘Hakuna Matata’ kind of motto,” Reaves said. “You can’t be worried about what happened in the past. You’ve just got to look forward, and I think that’s what this group’s going to do.”

After it lost Game 1 it’s what Toronto was able to do last season of its first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning but advanced since 2004 for the first time.

“It’s a playoff series,” Keefe said. “You’ve got to be able to bounce back. You’ve got to be allowed to move on and you make your corrections and you get back at it. That’s it. You can’t get too anxious about it. Whether the game finishes the way it did last night or whether we lose the game in overtime, 1-0 we’re still down.

“To handle it you’ve got to be able. We’ve been through this, and we’ve recovered well. Again tomorrow we have an opportunity to do that.”

With or without Nylander.

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