The Toronto Maple Leafs started the week third in the Atlantic Division, being chased by the Florida Panthers and chasing the Philadelphia Flyers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the New York Islanders.
Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
In a controversial decision prior to the game, head coach Sheldon Keefe scratched Timothy Liljegren and Egor Korshkov, playing Martin Marincin and moving Frederik Gauthier to centre the third line. Evgeni Malkin left due to injury after a quick circuit in warmup, and Anthony Angello was called to fill in.
The Leafs got an early power play, but did not capitalize, and in fact, barely got a set up. On a Pittsburgh power play later in the period, Sidney Crosby threaded a pass tape to tape to Bryan Rust through three players to beat Frederik Andersen. With 2:57 left in the period, Angello tipped a puck by Andersen for his first NHL goal and a 1–0 Pittsburgh advantage. Just before the end of the period, the referees called a high sticking minor on Jake Muzzin. However, in part of the rule changes for this season (which came in response to last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs) the refs were allowed to review the call for “friendly fire” and it was determined that there was no penalty on the play. The Pens lead 2–0 heading into intermission. Three minutes into the second, Crosby fed Jason Zucker on the power play to extend the Pens’ lead to 3–0. The Leafs took yet another penalty and the Pens capitalized, with Hornqvist sliding a cross-crease pass past Muzzin and Andersen, leaving Crosby with an empty net to push the gap to 4–0. The Leafs got a five-on-three power play for 1:18. The Leafs did not capitalize and just after killing the penalty, Teddy Blueger beat a sprawling Andersen for the Pens’ fifth goal. Auston Matthews scored his league leading 43rd of the season and Kyle Clifford collected his first goal as a Leaf, a deflection with his foot, minutes later to cut the lead to three at 4–1.
The period came to a close with the Leafs beginning to put on pressure for the first time all game. The score remained the same throughout the third period, and the Leafs fell to the Pens by a final score of 5–2.
On Wednesday, the Leafs acquired forward Denis Malgin from the Florida Panthers and forward Max Veronneau from the Ottawa Senators. https://www.the-rink.com/leafs-make-a-series-of-depth-moves/
Thursday vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Keefe once again chose to scratch Liljegren in favour of Marincin, and started Andersen over Jack Campbell. Keefe explained starting Andersen as “going with (their) guy.”
Amongst a line shuffle in which only the Matthews’ line stayed intact, Malgin slotted in on John Tavares’ right wing and Alexander Kerfoot dropped back to the third line.
In the first minutes of the period, the Leafs came out strong, with particularly noticeable contributions from their fourth line. Just prior to the end of the first, the Leafs took a tripping penalty. Despite some close calls, Andersen stood tall, in contrast to Tuesday night’s game where the Penguins’ power play dominated.
The period came to a close with the game tied at 0–0. The beginning of the second period was all Leafs. Off an offensive-zone draw less than 10 minutes into the period, Muzzin fired a shot right past Matt Murray for a 1–0 Toronto lead. The Penguins took two consecutive penalties, similar to Tuesday night, but this time the Leafs capitalized. William Nylander, with all the time in the world, beat Murray cleanly five-hole to double the gap to 2–0. Minutes later, Kerfoot found a streaking Kasperi Kapanen, who beat Murray low to the stick side, pushing the Toronto advantage to 3–0. After Rasmus Sandin was rocked with an arguably late hit by Hornqvuist, Kapanen dropped the gloves with Jared McCann. The second period ended 3–0 Toronto. Early in the third, Zach Hyman outworked Justin Schultz in front of the net to score goal No. 19 in game No. 43. Hyman’s career high is 21 goals, achieved in 71 games last season. The rest of the game was dominated by the Leafs. Although the Penguins applied pressure in the last minute or so of the game, the Leafs only allowed four shots in the third period, two of those coming in the last minute. Though there was a debate as to whether starting Andersen was the right decision, he had an excellent game and has likely regained some confidence.
Following the Pittsburgh game, the Leafs loaned Korshkov to the Toronto Marlies.
Saturday vs. Carolina Hurricanes
There were no lineup changes for the Leafs heading into Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada game. Eight scouts from different NHL teams and a scout from Seattle were in attendance.
The game was off to a quick start, with Andersen making a huge save on Andrei Svechikov.
Early on in the game, James Reimer was pushed into his net and appeared to injure his knee on the way down and left the game. Petr Mrazek came into the game in relief, and Hyman received a two-minute penalty for goaltender interference. Minutes later, Svechnikov caught Tyson Barrie in a vulnerable position, and sent him head-first into the boards. Barrie went directly down the tunnel, but would return for the second period.
On the ensuing power play, the Leafs struggled to gain a zone entry and barely created any pressure. Despite this, the Leafs struck first, with Kerfoot burying the rebound of a shot from Muzzin for a 1–0 lead. Early in the second period, with Andersen outside of his crease and looking lost, the Canes tied the game up at 1–1 before Nino Niederreiter and Warren Foegele scored two consecutive goals to make it 3–1. With Mrazek out to play the puck near the top of the circle, Kyle Clifford reached for the puck and knocked the goalie down. Clifford was originally given a five-minute major, but after review it was changed to a two-minute penalty. Mrazek was forced to leave the game. As this was Carolina’s second goalie of the night to get injured, the emergency goalie was called in. David Ayeres, the emergency goalie at the game, is 42 years old, often practices with the Leafs and is the Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies. On the Canes’ ensuing power play, Travis Dermott proceeded to put the puck into the back of the wrong net, and the score became 4–1 Carolina. The Leafs went on to score two more goals on two shots, with the goals coming from Tavares and Pierre Engvall, cutting the gap to 4–3, which held at the end of the period. The Leafs could not get anything going in the third, with the Hurricanes’ defense barely allowing any zone entries. Foegele netted his second of the night to increase the lead to 5–3, and soon after, Martin Necas also piled on. The Leafs fell to the Hurricanes by a final score of 6–3, with Ayres becoming the first emergency backup to earn a victory.
Postgame, Keefe remarked that it was another embarrassing night for his team. In fact, this game was a humiliating effort from a team that should, and can be, much better. As the playoff push begins in earnest, this Leafs team needs to find some sort of consistency if they want to be playing past April.
- The Leafs expect to have both Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci back within the regular season
- Headed into trade deadline week, Tyson Barrie has skyrocketed to the top of the “trade bait” board. It was reported that there was a deal almost reached with the Calgary Flames that would send defender T.J. Brodie back to Toronto. However, Brodie has now added Toronto to his no-trade list.
- Another team with interest in Barrie is the Vancouver Canucks
- William Nylander has become the highest-scoring Nylander in a single season with 27 goals so far
- In the middle of Saturday’s game, the Leafs acquired Miikka Salomaki from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenceman Ben Harpur. Harpur has played exclusively with the Marlies this season.
- Ceci is now the last remnant of the Ceci-Zaitsev trade, with the third-round pick going to the Los Angeles Kings, Aaron Luchuk headed to Ottawa and now Harpur with the Predators organization.
- On Saturday night, the Florida Panthers also lost (5–3 against the Vegas Golden Knights), so the Leafs have maintained their playoff spot
- The Leafs placed Dmytro Timashov on waivers on Sunday and he was claimed by Detroit on Monday