It has been 181 days since Max Domi scored in a game that mattered for his team, but he’s trying to put the downtime to good use.
After most Maple Leafs departed practice, Sunday found him staying for faceoff drills with assistant coach Manny Malhotra, followed by a lengthy talk with the media on how to get back in everyone’s good graces.
Domi’s zero goals on 15 shots (with four assists) are a lot less than advertised so far in his homecoming after he signed last summer following a strong playoffs with Dallas.
“Frustration is just one of those words that gets spun off too much,” he said. “Hey, if you’re getting frustrated (11) games in because you haven’t done X, Y or Z, you probably shouldn’t be in the NHL. There’s always stuff you can focus on, pros and cons. We’re playing good defensively (he’s even on the plus/minus scale), but everyone can be better and certainly I’m part of that group.”
Domi took more draws on Sunday because coach Sheldon Keefe plans on using him more as a third-line centre than a left-winger on Monday against Tampa Bay with Swedes Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Holmberg, potentially an entire line of pivots.
Domi has played all three forward positions so far with Toronto in a bid to find his comfort zone.
“There’s a lot more speed up the middle, maybe that will help carry over to some offence,” Domi said.
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IT STARTS AT HOME
Of Toronto’s 37 goals to date, 26 have come from four players: Auston Matthews (11), William Nylander (six), John Tavares (five) and Mitch Marner (four). The combined shots on goal total for Domi, Jarnkrok, Tyler Bertuzzi and Matthew Knies is 65 versus 171 from the Core Four.
It was defenceman Mark Giordano who had some sound advice for the latter group as the Leafs have lost four straight.
“It’s got to start with hard work and defence,” Giordano said. “A cliché, but we scored enough goals to win (Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Buffalo). When things aren’t going well offensively, you have to contribute in other ways.
“It’s on all of us; we have to keep pucks out of our net. Forget about trying to score all night, we have to start in our own end. We’re a pretty gifted team, the offence will come, but we can’t give skilled teams the looks we gave (Buffalo).”
Courtesy of Marlies play-by-play man Todd Crocker, some interesting stats on winger Alex Steeves’ AHL starts:
In his first 10 games in 2021, he had 10 points. Then 13 in 10 games to start last year. With two goals Saturday in a 5-0 win over Laval, he has 10 points already with Game No. 10 not until Wednesday in Milwaukee. Steeves and Nick Robertson (five goals, nine points in 11 games) have both seen NHL time with the Leafs.
Hats are usually thrown on the ice after a hat trick, but the ice crew at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday also retrieved a brassiere after Matthews’ third goal … Ilya Samsonov, beaten three times on four shots the last time he faced Tampa Bay in a game that Joseph Woll eventually rescued in overtime, likely starts on Monday … Nylander’s 11-game point streak to start the season puts him a mere 40 behind NHL record-holder Wayne Gretzky from 1983-84. There are 17 other NHLers who reached at least 11, now including Nylander and New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin, who had a goal and assist Saturday against Minnesota … Top draft pick Easton Cowan has 18 points in 10 games since being returned to the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights on the eve of the Leafs’ season opener. Fraser Minten has two points in two starts with the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers since his four-game NHL stint … Assistant GM Shane Doan has been a recent on-ice addition as a shooter when the goalies are warming up at practice. “He still remembers how to play hockey,” Samsonov told TSN of the 400-goal scorer. “He shoots so hard. Sometimes we’re angry with him. It’s not like a warm-up, it’s like a real game, (but) he’s a good guy, so funny and is helping us all the time.”