Wings: Young Leafs have taken game to ‘next level’
Detroit — Niklas Kronwall has seen many talented young players enter the NHL over his long career.
But there’s something unique about the group in Toronto.
The Maple Leafs have sprinted to a quick start, as many expected, with the core of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner generating the most buzz.
“These guys have taken their game to the next level,” Kronwall said. “They came in last year and they didn’t just want to be there, they contributed right away, and this year they seem like they’ve taken it to a whole another level.
“It’s impressive to see.”
The maturation and development of the Maple Leafs have exploded, perhaps, quicker than expected.
Toronto made the playoffs last season, and took a powerful Washington team to six games before losing in the first round.
The expectations are much higher this season, with talk of a Stanley Cup heating up around Toronto, a city that desperately dreams of one.
“Of course they’re going to expect things, but these guys are super talented, and it seems like have a will and determination to really get it done,” Kronwall said. “It’ll be fun to watch them going forward.”
As deep offensively as Tampa Bay appeared Monday, many analysts suggest the Maple Leafs may have more pure skill through their four lines.
“I felt that when we played them in the Centennial Classic (Jan. 1) that was as deep a forward group and as dangerous a group as anybody in the league,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Right there with Pittsburgh, I felt.
“And they certainly haven’t lost anybody. If anything they’ve added somebody (Patrick Marleau) that is probably going to be a Hall of Famer.”
There’s a key, said Blashill, when facing a dangerous offensive team such as Tampa or Toronto.
“If you’re on your heels, you’re in trouble,” Blashill said. “You better pressure them as much as possible, and make them defend as much as possible.”
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Monday’s game was No. 900 of defenseman Trevor Daley’s career.
“You look at it, the more games you play, the older you get,” said Daley, 34. “But I’ve been fortunate to play a long time and milestones like that are pretty cool when they come.”
Daley received numerous texts and messages congratulating him on the accomplishment, but all that did was cement one fact about playing this long.
“How much I’ve enjoyed the process,” Daley said. “Obviously it’s a privilege to play in the NHL, and I’ve had great people around me who’ve helped me along the way.”
General manager Ken Holland said defenseman Danny DeKeyser (sprained ankle) could be out “probably another week, maybe two” after blocking a shot Oct. 10 in Dallas.
… Blashill, on referees enforcing the new standards on slashing: “Some of the refs are calling it a little tighter than others, and that’s just the reality, but that’s every rule, and it’s been magnified with the slashing.
“Anytime you have multiple people you’re going to have different standards of it.”
Red Wings at Maple Leafs
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Air Canada Centre, Toronto.
TV/radio: FSD-Plus/950 AM
Outlook: The Red Wings make their first visit to Toronto this season. … C Auston Matthews (eight points, including five goals, in five games) could be an MVP candidate in only his second season.