Sports Hockey

LEAFS LOCKER

Blue Jackets' Tortorella impressed with young Maple Leafs

By Rob Longley, Toronto Sun

In this Feb. 3, 2017, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella gestures to an official during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

In this Feb. 3, 2017, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella gestures to an official during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

His team may have gotten the best of the Leafs in a 5-2 win on Wednesday, but Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was impressed with what he saw from his youthful opponent.

“That’s a fast, skilled team,” Tortorella said of the Leafs following the first of three meetings between the two this season. “They are hell-bent for leather there as far as just going hard. They have three pretty good lines that you can’t figure out who to match up against.”

Both the Leafs and Jackets are two of the teams in the league that emblematic of the move to young, fast teams changing the way the game has played. And Tortorella is a big fan of the development.

“It’s great for the game,” Tortorella said. “The game’s changing. It’s a young man’s game and it’s changed quickly. It’s great for the game.

“Organizations were always careful about keeping (prospects) in the minors and developing them the right way. That still goes on, but there’s a lot of really good young players who deserve to be here.”

MORNING SKATE DEBATE

Tortorella has gained much attention this season for completely scrapping the traditional game-day skate.

As forceful as he was in the belief that it was the best approach, the Blue Jackets coach admits it was a hard sell to many of his players.

“I’m thrilled that the players have taken to it and gotten themselves out of that routine that is in this league,” Tortorella said. “I’m glad they’ve accept that and believe that is helping them. I know it’s good for the athletes. It’s just getting the athletes out of that routine they’re so used to.

“In the long run, in the big picture, it’s really good for you.”

LEGENDARY NIGHT

Who's up next?

The Leafs are set to unveil the latest inductees to Legends Row, the team monument to the greatest players in club history. The announcement will be made in a pre-game ceremony Saturday at the Air Canada Centre prior to the Hockey Night In Canada meeting against the Ottawa Senators.

The row, which is located in Maple Leaf Square just outside of the ACC, currently is populated with bronze statues of 10 Leafs greats — Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower, Borje Salming, George Armstrong, Syl Apps, Mats Sundin, Dave Keon, Turk Broda and Tim Horton.

QUICK HITS

When Leafs rookie Auston Matthews scored twice in Tuesday’s win over the Islanders, it game him four multi-goal games this season, the most by a Leafs rookie since Wendel Clark and Steve Thomas has five each in 1985-86 … Nazem Kadri scored both Leafs goals in Columbus on Wednesday, notable in that it was his fifth multi-goal game of the season and 10th multi-point night. Kadri has six points (three goals, three assists) in his last five games … More evidence of the damage inflicted by the Leafs' slow start: they are now 1-13-3 when trailing after the first period and 2-16-1 when behind after two periods … With his pair of assists on Wednesday, Josh Leivo has five points (one goal, four assists) in two games and, given the play of some veteran forwards, he’s quickly winning the confidence of coach Mike Babcock.

rlongley@postmedia.com