Powered by the torrid pace of their big guns offensively, the 3-1-0 Toronto Maple Leafs will look to build on their most complete performance of the season on Tuesday in Dallas when they face off against the 0-1-2 Red Wings tonight in Detroit.
Coming off their best 5-on-5 performance of the year thus far, it’s obvious that — while Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner are scoring at will right now — the Leafs are far more capable of controlling games possession-wise at even strength when they’ve got four lines rolling, with a bottom-six that keeps the pedal to the metal and sets up the next shift for the team’s heavy artillery up front.
Tonight, Mike Babcock will stick with the same forward lines from the victory over the Stars (Par Lindholm up with Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown on L3, Frederik Gauthier centering Josh Leivo and Tyler Ennis on line four), but he’ll make a minor substitution on the blue line. It’s clear that the coaching staff understands they have some capable depth options and that it benefits the team to give them all reps early in the year. Coming off a decent debut vs. Chicago, Martin Marincin subs in again tonight for Igor Ozhiganov, only this time on the left side.
Marincin left side, and Dermott plays right.#tmltalk
— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) October 11, 2018
Dermott has played quite a bit on the right side with the Marlies and has done well there when asked. It’s not hard to imagine the coaching staff wants to take a look at him on his off side to get a sense of whether he could move up in the lineup at some point — potentially sooner than later if Ron Hainsey’s early-season form doesn’t improve, but certainly as part of a potential long-term solution on the blue line once Hainsey’s contract is up at the end of the year.
The Red Wings are winless through three games (CBJ, LA, ANA) but have lost two of those games in overtime/shootout. With the speed and skill of Anthony Mantha, Gustav Nyquist, Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou in the Detroit top six, the Leafs will need to avoid feeding their transition game by taking care of the puck through the neutral zone. They’ll also need to avoid the penalty box as the Red Wings are off to a hot start on the power play with three of their six goals coming by way of the man advantage (33% PP). If they can do those two things, you have to like the Leafs‘ odds of picking up win #4 on the season at Little Caesars Arena tonight with how their offensive firepower and depth matches up with the Red Wings’ vulnerable defense.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the Red Wings:
Detroit’s got real quick forwards and their D are active. I think they’ve been playing real good on specialty teams that we’ve been watching. They’re going to be a tough opponent for us. They smacked us around in our last exhibition game, so we want to be prepared for it.
Babcock on puck possession:
We’d like to have the puck most of the time, but I don’t know if that’s been the case through our games, to be honest with you. I thought we had it way more the other night than we’ve had it just because of the intensity you talked about. We were ready to start on time and ready to go.
Babcock on Morgan Rielly’s big start to the year and his progression as a defenseman:
The biggest thing for him he can really skate, pass it, and create offense. We still want him to be a number-one shutdown guy defensively. Part of that is just some time in the league — the more time, the more you learn. That is what Ron Hainsey does for him. Hainsey is there to help him. He plays with a coach every shift to help him grow in his game so that he can continue to take steps.
Obviously, his confidence has grown. He is playing well for us. We need him to continue to be a good player.
Mitch Marner on the team’s work at both ends:
That’s something we talked about from the start. We want to go from defense to offense quick. That’s our goal here every night — as soon as we get that puck in our hands, we’re moving up the ice quickly. With the speed we have up front, that’s something we can utilize very well.
Marner on the high-flying first powerplay unit:
You’ve got Naz on the high tip that he scored  on last year right in that spot, Johnny who’s very good around the net, Mats obviously on the other flank when he comes down he can shoot the puck very very well. Then up top you’ve got Mo, who can walk a line and get it through. Naz is there for a tip, Johnny is there for a tip, and me and Mats are coming down the sides. There’s five different guys on the ice that can do different things with it. That’s why it works so well.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on the Leafs performance this year:
Did you guys see the Chicago game, the end of the Chicago game? It was awesome. Entertaining for sure. Unreal. Is it a challenge for our young D? Absolutely. The good thing for us is at least we saw them in exhibition. If they’re coming at us flying a hundred miles an hour the whole night, it will be a long night. We better put the puck in behind them, we better grind them in their zone, and we better make them defend as much as possible. That’ll be the key.
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
#52 Martin Marincin – #23 Travis Dermott
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Scratched: Andreas Johnsson, Igor Ozhiganov, Justin Holl, William Nylander (unsigned RFA)
Detroit Red Wings Projected Lines
#39 Anthony Mantha – #71 Dylan Larkin – #48 Justin Abdelkader
#14 Gustav Nyquist – #72 Andreas Athanasiou – #26 Thomas Vanek
#39 Tyler Bertuzzi – 51 Frans Nielsen – #27 Micheal Rasmussen
#43 Darren Helm – #54 Christoffer Ehn – #41 Luke Glendening
#65 Danny DeKeyser – #13 Filip Hronek
#47 Libor Sulak – #2 Joe Hicketts
#55 Niklas Kronwall – #3 Nick Jensen
#35 Jimmy Howard
#45 Jonathan Bernier