Sports

Maple Leafs’ Keefe rooting hard for Raptors in their playoff run

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OTTAWA — Sheldon Keefe is no different than any other Toronto sports fan this Easter weekend.

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There’s lots to choose from and even his Maple Leafs, in the midst of playing every other day, are taking time to watch the Raptors launch another playoff push while the Blue Jays came back to the Rogers Centre with a bang.

“Nick Nurse and I were texting yesterday,” Keefe said Saturday afternoon of the Raptors coach. “I was just wishing him well for the playoffs ahead and he passed along the same for us. I haven’t been able to get to a Jays game myself, but I’m picking up on it. It’s a great time to be a sports fan in Toronto, no question.

“I think in most cities there’s that common bond (between teams). You look at the success the Raptors have had in the MLSE family, We pay attention and learn what we can from them.”

NO POWER-PLAY PANIC

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Before Saturday’s game against the Senators. Keefe was asked about his league-leading power play seemingly losing a step and falling under 30% efficiency.

“The numbers look worse than they are because there have been a lot of broken (abbreviated) power plays. On some, we put out different units because of what was going on in the game.

“We’ve quickly forgotten that our power play was outstanding on this recent road trip. The last three games weren’t good, but before that we were running at 42% over an eight-game segment. Let’s not get carried away.”

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ENGVALL’S END GAME

Winger Pierre Engvall’s 30-point season, two shy of his North American pro high with the Marlies, is not a surprise in the dressing room according to teammate Alex Kerfoot.

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“He has all the tools. He’s another guy like (Ilya Mikheyev) who can create separation for himself. He’s explosive off the rush, has an elite shot that when he gets to an open spot, he can rip it and beat goalies clean.

“He’s another of those guys who can create offence for himself; it’s not like he needs to play with certain guys or needs things to fall his way. If he gets the puck in good areas, he can make things happen. He’s putting it all together and you can see his confidence continues to grow with ice time and more offensive situations.”

Engvall is doing many of the things that used to bring many Swedish journalists to town to highlight one of their own, though such visits this year for all the Leafs with Scadinavian backgrounds — such as William Nylander, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Engvall and Erik Kallgren — have been almost non-existent because of COVID-19 precautions.

LOOSE LEAFS

Veteran Jason Spezza was in the lineup to face his draft team after playing just three games this month. Nick Abruzzese sat … Forward Colin White of the Senators was moved to COVID-19 protocol just before the game … The Leafs decided to cancel Saturday morning’s skate, having picked a downtown hotel that would’ve required three long bus trips in the course of the day.


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