The Toronto Maple Leafs face off against a couple of former teammates in Dallas tonight for their second of a four-game road trip.
After a tough couple of games, it’s no surprise to see Andreas Johnsson come out of the lineup. Fortunately, Johnsson’s body of work the last two years in the AHL, his waiver status, plus what he showed in the NHL down the stretch should grant him a longer leash; we’ll be seeing him again in short order.
In for Johnsson is Frederik Gauthier, whose inability to break into a bigger role in the AHL means the positive impact he’ll have at the NHL level is seriously in doubt. Nevertheless, Babcock is keen to give a him a look and tonight he’ll do so with two offensively-inclined wingers in Josh Leivo and Tyler Ennis.
It’s been a steady start from 26-year-old Par Lindholm, who will jump up with Kadri tonight on the wing, presumably with a boost in ice time. With Kadri, he should be able to get more zone time and a give the coaching staff a better look at his ability in possession.
Igor Ozhiganov will come back in as well to replace Martin Marincin, who on Sunday looked like the steady shutdown player the Toronto Marlies organization has come to expect. It would be wise for the Leafs to continue subbing their fringe players in and out in this early part of the season — especially on the back end, where they Leafs have Ozhiganov, Holl, and Marincin fighting for the sixth spot. The correct handedness and highest ceiling goes to Oziganov — as well as sorely needed physicality
— but having all the D in game shape is important early in the season to evaluate, avoid injuries, as well as show that there are no favourites.
If Ron Hainsey falters any further or if the games start to get any faster (hard to imagine), the top-four right side will have an opening for a competent righty that can make a simple, consistent first pass to a forward quickly and efficiently. There could be more at stake in the near future.
When playing the Stars, their top end talent at forward is bound to be the focus. Additionally, 26-year-old John Klingberg is an elite piece on the back end, and it looks like they have another in 2017 third overall pick Miro Heiskanen. They do lack a lot of talent up front beyond the Jamie Benn/Tyler Sequin/Alexander Radulov top line, however, which will be an area that either the John Tavares or Auston Matthews line could take advantage of.
As mentioned, two former Leafs are the lineup tonight for Dallas. Connor Carrick — despite playing his offside with Roman Polak — has managed to make a very positive impact on shot metrics to start the year, with three assists to go along with it.
Game Day Quotes
Babcock on high scoring, mistake filled “October hockey”, and if it’ll change moving forward:
We’d like to think it’s going to change. As the year goes on, the goaltending gets better and better. Part of the reason the goaltending gets better and better is because they’re dialed in, but also because of the structure of the teams and fewer mistakes. I said it the other night: You can’t outscore your mistakes. The other night in Chicago we were able to do that — but it doesn’t happen very often.
Babcock on the finding the right fit for Kadri’s line:
I’m still searching. I’ve got one line that looks like its going in Tavares’ group but, I mean, it’s game four, right? Same questions every year.
Babcock on Kapanen’s solid performance and promotion to the Matthews line:
The challenge as a player in the league is to do it everyday. You can’t be one and done. You’ve got to do it everyday. I thought [Kapanen] was great [on Sunday]. He was physical, he was fast, he played heavy. Those are the things you need to play with good players, because they want the puck back. I thought he did all that. Another challenge for him is you’v got do do it again, and then again the next night.
Babcock on Ozhiganov coming back in for Marincin:
We thought Marincin played real well. We’re just going with Ozhiganov back in — Marincin will get [back] in right away. The GOAT hasn’t had an opportunity here, and obviously were trying to figure our lines out and get it going, so he gets a opportunity here today.
Babcock on Johnsson:
I don’t know, I thought he played good for us last year. The biggest thing for him is, how do you respond from it? Hasn’t gone as good as you’d like, so there’s no sense worrying about that — you can’t fix that. What you fix is what you do tomorrow and your next opportunity. So get to work and get it going. He’s and important part for us. We think he’s a big piece.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Patrick Marleau – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#26 Par Lindholm – #43 Nazem Kadri – #28 Connor Brown
#32 Josh Leivo – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #63 Tyler Ennis
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#51 Jake Gardiner – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#23 Travis Dermott – #92 Igor Ozhiganov
#40 Garret Sparks
#31 Frederik Andersen
Scratched: Andreas Johnsson, Martin Marincin, Justin Holl, William Nylander (unsigned RFA)
Dallas Stars Projected Lines
#14 Jamie Benn – #91 Tyler Sequin – #47 Alexander Radulov
#13 Matthias Janmark – #90 Jason Spezza – #15 Black Comeau
#17 Devin Shore – #12 Radek Faksa – #18 Tyler Pitlick
#43 Valeri Nichushkin – #24 Roope Hintz – #25 Brett Ritchie
#23 Esa Lindell – #3 John Klingberg
#33 Marc Methot – #4 Miro Heiskanen
#5 Connor Carrick – #45 Roman Polak
#30 Ben Bishop
#35 Anton Khudobin
Scratched: Martin Hanzal, Jason Dickinson