Sunday, April 9, 2017

{allcanada} Leo Komarov special player for Maple Leafs


TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov remembers the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After a four-year wait, he is excited to get the chance to experience playoff hockey again.

"I like playing in tough games and it's better to be in this spot than where we were last year because we didn't play for nothing," Komarov said. "This is much nicer."

Along with Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner, Komarov is one of five remaining players who were with the Maple Leafs when they last appeared in the playoffs four seasons ago, losing in seven games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Komarov is among the Maple Leafs' most versatile players, averaging 2:09 on the penalty kill and power play, and 12:51 at even strength.

Though Komarov is known for his physical style -- he was tied for second on the Maple Leafs with 232 hits -- Komarov is capable of contributing offensively, scoring 19 goals in 2015-16 and 14 goals this season.

"The thing I like about Leo is you know what you are getting from him every night," linemate Connor Brown said. "He plays the same night in, night out. He plays hard, he competes, he's really good on the forecheck getting pucks back and he's a good teammate and a good leader."

At 30-years-old and with more than 250 NHL games on his resume, Komarov recalled how much differently the game was played in the playoffs during his initial experience four seasons ago and said it reminded him of the style of play he saw when the Maple Leafs were competing to clinch a playoff berth this season.

"The game is way different, way tighter and mistakes you do cost you more," Komarov said. "You can see even in the games toward the end of the regular season, it's similar to playoffs. If you compare to the beginning of the season and the games now, it's different. When you play big games, you don't have that much space and mistakes cost you."

On a team that has consistently featured at least six rookies in the lineup throughout the season, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock is counting on Komarov's experience to lead the way.

"He's real important for us," Babcock said. "We have a lot of young guys and young and heavy don't tend to go together. You learn to get heavy on your stick and strong in battles over time. Leo's a guy who is effective for us, he's ultra-competitive. The bigger the games are, the harder he plays."

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