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Babcock urges stifled Marner to ‘just breathe’

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who held a team meeting at the MasterCard Centre before flying to Boston for Game 7. The Bruins practised at Warrior Ice​.

Mitch Marner struck for two goals in Game 1, but since then has produced just a pair of assists, both on the power play, in this series against the Boston Bruins. In Game 5 and Game 6 he was held without a shot, the first time all season he's been held without a shot in consecutive games.

"The biggest thing for Mitch is you’re playing against real good players and just breathe," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. "Don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about what everyone else thinks, just breathe and play hard and enjoy yourself. When he was a kid he probably played road hockey and at this time (of year) he was probably (pretending to be) whoever scored the winning goal the night before, be the same, just get out there and play."

Babcock has matched Marner against the Patrice Bergeron line while Boston coach Bruce Cassidy is doing his best to ensure his top defence pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy has been on against Toronto's top line. It's not an easy matchup for anyone let alone a 21-year-old in his third NHL season. Marner has just one even-strength point in the series while linemate John Tavares has three. Bergeron has one while Brad Marchand has posted four.

Has the defensive assignment drained Marner's energy at all?

"I don't think much," he said. "I mean, I got a lot of energy, which is nice. For me, personally, it’s about trying to make sure I'm always above people, not trying to cheat for offence or anything like that. Our line, we're always thinking about the defensive side of the puck."

And despite failing to hit the scoresheet on Sunday, Marner did see some improvements for him, Tavares and Zach Hyman.

"I thought last game we created more space for each other than we have recently," he said. "We got to create more space for each other ... but we're going to need everyone tomorrow."

"We probably didn't do a good enough job coming out of our end at times," Tavares observed after Sunday's loss. "They really defend with all five guys in the interior. We've just got to continue to be patient."

Tavares has not scored since Game 1 when his empty netter sealed things. For Babcock, the message to the 47-goal centre is the same as to Marner.

"Be out there loose and........