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Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Keefe & Montgomery Job Status – Hockey Writers – Toronto Maple Leafs

Tonight, one of the two Original Six teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Boston Bruins, will end their Stanley Cup run this postseason. This series was one of intense competition. And tonight's Game 7 promises to be no different—”just” another chapter in their long-running rivalry.

This is what fans of both teams have been waiting for, and emotions will run high. In what has become a morning ritual for us, my frequent correspondent Stan Smith noted that he was already overwhelmed by the prospect—no surprise to any true Maple Leafs fan. Every shift can be of great importance. And, because so few goals have been scored, any shift to produce an unexpected winning goal – an unlucky turnover, a timely penalty, a pass that knocks back the boards ridiculously, or a shot that bounces past the goalkeeper. .

Related: Börje – A Legendary Tour A Must See For Maple Leafs Fans

Fans can count on the Maple Leafs and Bruins to fight hard; the result of this game will determine who advances to the next round and who exits the postseason.

First thing: The Evolution of Playoff Hockey: Embracing the Good of Defense

As the intensity of playoff hockey reaches its peak, it's hard not to notice the stark difference in style of play in these first round games compared to the regular season. While some criticism has been directed at what some see as “poorly played” games, a closer look reveals a different story. This season's playoffs have featured close hockey and goal scoring.

In the top playoff games for the Bruins and the Maple Leafs, their defensive efforts have gone up as the series has played out for both teams. Mistakes are reduced, and every asset becomes a war. The result? Low scoring games where all goals are scored. Strategy plays a role, but sheer determination is also a big issue. Maple Leafs players like Jake McCabe are emerging as potential.

For some first-round matchups, the same storylines don't apply. On Friday night, the latest Game 6 clashes between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators and the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars took similar paths. In both games, the final scores—1-0 and 2-0 with an empty goal—underscored the defensive strength on display. Each goal was the result of relentless pressure applied by both teams, with the goalkeepers going to great lengths to block any scoring opportunities.

Related: Bruins Face Heavy Pressure Heading into Game 7

Rather than viewing these games as lackluster, fans should celebrate the defensive excellence displayed by players and teams alike. In the crucible of this type of playoff hockey, each shift is important because the effectiveness of the defensive game often proves to be the difference maker.

The playoffs are a different game than the regular season – tighter, more determined, and much smarter. This type of defensive hockey has its advantages.

Item Two: Auston Matthews' Game 7 Status Remains Uncertain

As Game 7 approaches, Auston Matthews' status remains to be determined. Despite skating on Friday, Matthews' availability for a key game remains in question. Updates from Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe continue to indicate that progress has been made, but no final decision is available.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / Hockey Writers)

While Toronto played solid hockey with Matthews out, winning back-to-back games to force a Game 7, his return likely had a big impact on the roster. If cleared to play, Matthews would regain his place on the roster and the No. 1 power play unit. He would reshape the dynamic of the game.

Given how the team has responded without their star player on the roster, there have to be fans who believe the Maple Leafs are playing better without him. Can you imagine that the coaching staff hasn't thought about getting Matthews close to being healthy so that he doesn't interfere with the team's success? That, in itself, is a strong thought.

Thing Three: Job Safety on the Line for Both Coaches in Game 7

The interesting aspect of today's Game 7 is that the stakes for both head coaches are huge. Is it possible that one of these coaches—Montgomery or Keefe—will not live to coach another game for his current team? The outcome of this important comparison could determine the future of their coaching career.

Related: Maple Leafs' Keefe in Critical Condition with Career Up in the Air

Montgomery and Keefe found themselves in a similar predicament. It may be a winner-takes-all situation, where the winning coach secures his job for the foreseeable future while the losing coach faces an uncertain technical fate. We often think about the pressure faced by the players, but this 7th game carries a lot of pressure on the coaches.

There's a lot on the line, and the biggest prize is more than a win. Job security.

What's Next for Maple Leaves?

The answer is we don't know.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]

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