Tyson Barrie seems to love playing under Sheldon Keefe.
The defenseman scored his first goal for the Maple Leafs in Keefe's NHL coaching debut on Thursday, putting an end to a drought that spanned for all 23 games in which Barrie had appeared in a Toronto jersey. On Saturday, he lit the lamp again, this time doing it against his old team — the Colorado Avalanche — in his first visit to Denver since joining the Leafs in July.
Placed on the top power-play unit by Keefe, Barrie repaid his new coach's faith just 20 seconds into Toronto's first man-advantage opportunity of the night. With several players from both teams battling for the puck down the right wing, Barrie drifted alone into the slot from the left. Then, after William Nylander slid the puck over, he fired a one-timer past Philipp Grubauer.
The goal came less than three minutes after Barrie had assisted on an Auston Matthews tally midway through the first period and moments after the Avalanche paid tribute to the blueliner during a TV timeout. The Victoria, B.C. native was drafted 64th overall by Colorado in 2009 and spent eight seasons with the club prior to his summer move to Toronto.
What a homecoming for Tyson Barrie. pic.twitter.com/ZMkEzGooVN
— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) November 24, 2019
Having struggled under former Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, Barrie has enjoyed a resurgence since Keefe was given the reins — to the tune of two goals and one assist in the first four periods. One of the first issues the new bench boss addressed was Barrie's offensive woes, with Keefe noting the player's overall significance to the Leafs' production.
"He’s an important part of the group. He is a great player," Keefe told reporters of Barrie on Friday. "When it hasn’t worked out for him to this point, that holds the team back. The team is capable of more when he is playing at his best."
Toronto held on for a 5-3 victory over Colorado on Saturday.