Nick Kypreos reports Montreal and Toronto are on Kevin Shattenkirk’s 12-team trade list, a look at Tyler Bozak, one of the highest paid and most productive third-line centers in the NHL, and more in the links.
Leafs Notebook – Where does Tyler Bozak stack up among NHL 3Cs? (MLHS)
There are a lot of different factors to consider when answering that question. First of all, Bozak benefits from playing with a legitimate budding star and a proven top-line scoring winger who are both on pace for over 65 points this season. Second, most teams don’t use their third line like the Leafs do (softer scoring minutes); instead, they use that third line to build a checking/matchup unit. Third, Bozak is making a lot of money for his role.
Mike Babcock on Nikita Zaitsev: “Any time you can find a guy in the summer that plays in your top pair, you’ve done something special” (MLHS)
Babcock: “He’s a real good player. He’s a competitive, competitive, smart guy. A better defender than we could’ve hoped for, and ultra-competitive. Takes it very seriously. Wants to be great. I think any time you can find a guy in the summer that plays in your top pair, you’ve done something special. Now we need to find some more.”
Maple Leafs relying too heavily on skill during rough patch (Sportsnet)
Babcock’s preferred method of forward deployment sees his offensive weapons spread across three lines. The Leafs boast enough skilled personnel to have success with that method, but it generally requires them to stack effective offensive zone shifts on top of one another – with each trio passing the baton to the next like a gold-medal-worthy relay team. When that doesn’t happen? Everything breaks down. You get caught chasing the game, and in a worst-case scenario like Saturday, you find yourself down 3-0 before the first intermission.
‘Guys are going to play you tough’: Leafs rookies drawing extra attention (Toronto Sun)
Fellow rookie Auston Matthews’ reward for a late-game steal and scoring chance was a power face wash from Rasmus Ristolainen. Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev was driven so hard over the boards at the bench earlier in the evening that he almost landed in the hors d’oeuvre tray of a platinum private box. Heavy-handed, yes. Unexpected, no. “I think I’ve always felt that (physical harassment),” said an unfazed Matthews of the nightly bull’s-eye on his back. “I’ve never shied away from that stuff. You’re kind of used to it, whether you are growing up playing junior or pro (in Switzerland). Guys can often be targeted. That’s part of the game. Guys are going to play you tough.”
Shattenkirk open to playing for Maple Leafs, Canadiens (Sportsnet)
“Short-term, [Armstrong] could trade him anywhere, including to any Canadian city,” explained Kypreos. “But there’s a belief out there that he would not be traded to a Canadian team because there was really no chance on a long-term deal moving forward. I don’t hear that’s the case. I think on his wish list of long-term deals, he’s got about 12 teams. I’m told two of them are Canadian teams. I think it’s safe to say that he doesn’t envision himself being an Edmonton Oiler or a Calgary Flame, but the feeling is Toronto and Montreal.”
Five things to watch in the Leafs’ stretch drive, including the scoreboard (The Star)
It will be interesting to see if coach Mike Babcock asks more of Auston Matthews than he already has. The top pick last June has proven to be a special player: He leads Leafs forwards in average ice time (17:45) and in 5-on-5 time (15:12). Mathews had 20:16 of ice time against Buffalo on Saturday, his first 20-minute load in 20 games. Will the 20 minute barrier be broken more often down the stretch? It may be, with the Leafs facing tougher, tighter checking, and scoring one goal in four of their last eight games (and going 2-6 over that span)
Both Leafs goalies should get ready (Toronto Sun)
Babcock can give Frederik Andersen a chance to come back from Saturday, his and the team’s slow start against the Buffalo Sabres, by inserting him Tuesday against the Islanders, the last of four straight games at home. The next night the Leafs are in Columbus, a chance not only to give Curtis McElhinney a shot at a second win in as many starts, but have it come against the team that put him on waivers a month ago.
[Paywall] Veterans Roman Polak, Matt Hunwick want to stick with Maple Leafs past the trade deadline (The Athletic)
It can be challenging to be a veteran player on an expiring contract in the NHL in the month of February. That’s when the trade deadline begins to loom and you could become a bargaining chip for a team looking to make a run at the playoffs. Roman Polak recalls going into the NHL All-Star break last season with the Maple Leafs sitting at 17-22-9. They were in last place in the Atlantic Division standings when Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello asked to speak to him.
[Paywall] Mirtle: The Leafs have to regroup – because the rest of the East is coming (The Athletic)
The Maple Leafs are not playing very well right now. And I’m not just saying that because they have only two wins in their last eight games – although that’s obviously not ideal. No, it’s the way they look from night to night right now, including this ugly loss to Buffalo that included an embarrassing 3-0 deficit 18 minutes into the game. If you go back and look over this eight game stretch, there are a lot of mini-disasters in there.
Game #49 Review: Toronto Marlies 6 vs. Albany Devils 2 (MLHS)
Less than 24 hours after surrendering a three-goal lead and losing in overtime, Toronto bounced back with a six-goal win in the rematch against the Albany Devils. Sunday’s win capped a successful three-game weekend that saw the Marlies take five of a possible six points. Toronto is now riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1-0), which is tied for their best run of the season. Toronto’s eighth victory in their last ten games puts them firmly in a playoff spot with just over a third of the season remaining.
Former NHL Players Kyle and Eric Wellwood Invest in HeadCheck Health’s Undisclosed Seed Round (Head Check Health.com)
HeadCheck Health Inc., a Canadian company that has created a reliable and objective sideline concussion testing and management application (app) for sports teams, has closed an undisclosed amount of seed round financing. Kyle and Eric Wellwood, brothers who both formerly played in the National Hockey League (NHL), led the round that included other local Vancouver-based investors.