The Toronto Maple Leafs have another good opportunity to pick up some points tonight against a struggling team while looking to keep their slim chance at home-ice alive — this time against the New York Rangers, who have lost their last five straight games (7 p.m EST, CBC).
An update on the Leafs and Bruins race for home-ice advantage in their first-round series: Boston now has a 93% chance at retaining their current spot in second in the Atlantic Division, putting the Leafs down to a 7% chance, per moneypuck.com. That’s a far cry from where they were two weeks ago when the Leafs were nearing 30%. Unfortunately, unless Boston slows down soon, it leaves Toronto without much in the way of tangible goals to fight for in their last eight games of the season, but they will need to find a way to self motivate and get themselves rolling, stringing wings together, and feeling confident about themselves again ahead of the playoffs.
The last meeting between the Leafs and Rangers on February 10th was an odd one, with rookie goaltender Alexandar Georgiev stealing the show on his birthday by making 55 saves in a 4-1 Rangers win despite a largely dominant Leaf performance. He’s had a few more impressive game-stealing performances since that night despite his numbers on the season being relatively average. He and Lundqvist have essentially shared starts for the last few months of the season, but it’ll be Georgiev going again tonight, with his last start being a 5-1 loss to the Flames last Friday.
Martin Marincin will remain out for a third straight game — surprising considering no one else has missed more than a couple of games with whatever illness is going around the room right now. There were reports that front office considered giving Rasmus Sandin a short look on the NHL roster with Calle Rosen still recovering from a foot injury, but it appears the team is fine keeping Igor Ozhiganov and Justin Holl in the lineup for now instead of rushing their 2019 first round pick into an NHL look while heavily managing their minutes for the time being.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the Matthews line:
Well, I thought Matty and Johnny had two of their better games of the year. Willy’s been sick the last couple so he doesn’t have quite the same energy, but he’s feeling way better about himself and skating better and winning more battles. Obviously, that makes him much more dangerous. We need him to still find another level confidence-wise here before the playoffs. Ideally, he’s back in here today and feeling good about himself. I thought Matty has skated really well here this last while. I thought he was real physical on offence last game, got the puck back a ton and so did Johnsson. That made their line dangerous.
Babcock on Nazem Kadri:
For a 190 pound guy, he’s ultra competitive. He’s got quick-twitch ability and real good smarts, moves the puck before it’s too late and all that stuff, but he’s competitive. He drives people crazy and we need more like him. No different than Hyman, you want two or three of them. Problem is, there’s no tree. It’s just like when you want right hand shots or left hand shots, you’d like to have a magic wand to turn a guy from a right shot to a left shot — doesn’t work like that.
Rangers head coach David Quinn on managing the puck vs. the Leafs:
Listen, you fuel their offence, it’s going to be a long night. That’s going to be key against anybody but, in particular, a team with this skill set. You have to manage the puck. If you turn it over you’ll make them go 200, 190 feet. That’s when you’re going to get burnt.
Quinn on Alexandar Georgiev’s last start vs. Toronto:
It’s funny — and I don’t want to take anything away from him because he did play great, don’t get me wrong — but they had 25 shots on the powerplay. We’ve got to clean that up obviously. I was talking to [Zuccarello] probably a week before he was traded, we were talking about that particular game and he said ‘you know, [Georgiev] played well but 5-on-5 it never felt that way’. They were shooting pucks and getting great chances, but 5-on-5 we actually played pretty well that game.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #29 William Nylander
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Patrick Marleau – #43 Nazem Kadri – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#42 Trevor Moore – #19 Nic Petan – #28 Connor Brown
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#8 Jake Muzzin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#92 Igor Ozhiganov – #3 Justin Holl
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Injured: Jake Gardiner (back), Travis Dermott (shoulder), Frederik Gauthier (foot), Martin Marincin (illness)
Scratched: Tyler Ennis
New York Rangers Projected Lines
#20 Chris Kreider – #93 Mika Zibanejad – #16 Ryan Strome
#90 Vladislav Namestnikov – #21 Brett Howden – #89 Pavel Buchnevich
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #50 Lias Andersson – #48 Brendan Lemieux
#23 Connor Brickley – #24 Boo Nieves – #95 Vinny Lettieri
#18 Mark Staal – #77 Anthony DeAngelo
#76 Brady Skjei – #44 Neal Pionk
#58 John Gilmour – #22 Kevin Shattenkirk
#30 Henrik Lundqvist
#40 Alexandar Georgiev
Injured: Filip Chytil