Toronto Maple Leafs: Week in review

  

Heading into the trade deadline, it was unclear if the Leafs were going to be sellers or buyers. The standings are tight this season, and the trade deadline saw the Metropolitan division loading up, the Florida Panthers (at that moment, two points out of a playoff spot) selling and perplexingly, the Buffalo Sabres buying. 

The Detroit Red Wings picked up Dmytro Timashov off of waivers. Timashov hasn’t regularly been in the Leafs lineup and has not played since Denis Malgin was acquired. Following the pickup, there was some speculation as to whether Timashov had requested a trade.

At 11:30 AM, the Toronto Maple Leafs re-acquired Calle Rosen from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Michael Hutchinson. Rosen was originally sent to the Avalanche in the blockbuster deal that saw Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Barrie and a sixth round pick come to Toronto, while Rosen, Nazem Kadri, and a third round pick were sent to Colorado. Rosen is a good depth pick up for the team,  especially with the injuries to the Leafs’ blue line. Both Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci are still injured and have no clear timeline for return to gameplay.

Michael Hutchinson had a difficult start to the season. In his first seven games, all losses, he let in at least four goals, and in five of those games, he let in five or more. Although he appeared to be improving as the season went on, when Frederik Andersen was injured, the Leafs simply could not buy a save from Hutchinson. Hutchinson played his last game with the Leafs on February 5, a 5-3 loss where the goaltender greatly struggled. Following the game, Kyle Dubas made a move to acquire Jack Campbell and, once Andersen was healthy, Hutchinson was put on waivers. Although Hutchinson has struggled in Toronto, the Avalanche need depth goaltenders as they deal with a barrage of injuries.

The Leafs also re-signed Jake Muzzin to a contract that will pay him $5,265,000 for the next four years. 

Tuesday vs the Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikita Kucherov beat Andersen early to give Tampa the 1-0 lead. Minutes later, with the fourth line hard at work, Jake Muzzin blasted the puck by Andrei Vasilevsky to tie the game. On the powerplay, John Tavares tipped Tyson Barrie’s shot to give the Leafs the lead. The score held at 2-1 for the rest of the period. Patrick Maroon tied the game up 11:54 into the second period, but less than a minute later, John Tavares got his second goal of the night and the Leafs regained the lead. William Nylander gave the Leafs a 4–2 lead, putting the puck between his legs and beating Vasilevsky over the shoulder.

During the second intermission, it was announced that Muzzin will not return to the game due to a hand injury.

Just under ten minutes into the third, Yanni Gourde cut the Leafs lead in half. Tampa came on strong to start the third, and it took half the period for the Maple Leafs to register a single shot. Despite that, Andersen managed to shut the door and the team held on for a 4-3 victory.

Thursday vs the Florida Panthers

Just prior to the game, Head Coach Sheldon Keefe decided to scratch ex-Panther Denis Malgin in favor of playing seven defensemen, with Rosen and Martin Marincin slotting in. Muzzin was still injured.

The Leafs gave up the first goal yet again, with Mark Pysyk getting the tally. However, 70 seconds later, Zach Hyman tied the game off of a backhand pass from Auston Matthews.

Soon after, Mike Hoffman buried an awkward rebound to put the Panthers back on top. Despite the Leafs putting on pressure, Noel Acciari beat Andersen from a bad angle to extend the lead. That was the third goal Andersen let in on six Panthers shots.

Kasperi Kapanen beat Sergei Bobrovsky on the powerplay under the right pad. Matthews tied the game with just over a minute left in the period. Following a hit from behind on Travis Dermott, Kapanen dropped the gloves with Mackenzie Weegar. 

The first period ended with the score tied at 3-3. The Leafs put on the pressure at the beginning of the second period, forcing Bobrovsky to make some spectacular saves. 

Despite chances at both ends, no goals were scored in the second period, and the game remained 3-3. Following a scramble in front of the net, Nylander found the loose puck and beat Bobrovsky to give the Leafs the lead. That goal is number 29 on the season for Nylander who is having a season full of career highs. Justin Holl potted the empty netter with 20.8 seconds left in the game to seal it.

Saturday vs Vancouver Canucks

Sheldon Keefe elected to play six defencemen and 12 forwards on Saturday night, with Timothy Liljegren the odd man out. Liljegren struggled in the last game against the Panthers, particularly in his own zone. 

On the first shot of the game, Frederick Gauthier beat Thatcher Demko, giving the Leafs an early lead. The Canucks fourth line came right back, Tyler Motte tying the game up. Less than a minute later, Matthews came back to regain the lead, streaking down the wing and beating Demko from a sharp angle.

With this goal, Matthews hit  45 on the season and is now on pace for 57 goals. Off a draw won by the Leafs in the defensive draw they could not clear the puck, and following a scramble in front, Tanner Pearson tied the game at two. Despite chances both ways, the second period remained scoreless. 18 seconds into the third period, Marincin collected his own rebound to put the Leafs up 3-2. That goal is Marincin’s first goal since March of last season.

Andersen was called on to make some big saves throughout the third, and while there were some close calls, the Canucks did not score. Zach Hyman scored the empty netter. Hyman now has 21 goals on the season, tying his career high from last season. Tyler Toffoli took a hooking penalty with less than a minute left in the game, and that ended the game. The Leafs downed the Canucks with a final score of 4-2.

Quick facts

  • Jake Muzzin is expected to miss four weeks following a hand injury sustained in the game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
  • Zach Hyman is a key part of the Leafs’ penalty kill and is often on the ice at 5-on-6, late in games. Despite only playing 47 games this season (he spent the first part of this season recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL) Hyman currently leads the league in empty net goals with six.

  • The Leafs have averaged 31.51 shots against throughout the season. However, in the last three games, with both Frederik Andersen struggling and the defense decimated by injuries, the team has given up less than 30 shots per game.

  • Cody Ceci, who missed a large amount of time with an undisclosed ankle injury, is nearing a return. He participated in the morning skate on Saturday and will join the team on the California road trip next week.
  • The Maple Leafs are now five points ahead of the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic division. They are also tied with the New York Islanders (currently in the first Wildcard position in the East) and two points up on the Columbus Blue Jackets (in the second Wildcard position)

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    Cristina Caruso
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    Heading into the trade deadline, it was unclear if the Leafs were going to be sellers or buyers. The standings are tight this season, and the trade de
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