The Toronto Maple Leafs will dress their Marlies roster plus a few NHL bubble players tonight in Montreal (7 p.m., TSN 4 & 2).
What’s most notable about the roster tonight is who isn’t on it and what it likely means as far as the direction the Leafs are leaning for opening night.
Both Rasmus Sandin and Martin Marincin are among the “bubble” candidates on defense that are going to play with the NHL lineup on Wednesday, with the two likely to be paired off in behind Rielly – Ceci and Muzzin – Barrie.
There is no doubt Sandin has nudged his name above the rest with his poise and smarts with and without the puck, while Marincin has been Marincin — plenty of good defensive stops, plenty of awkward moments handling and moving the puck. But he’s a much-needed penalty-killing option on the blue line and surely a superior choice to Ben Harpur at this time as the Leafs await the return of Travis Dermott from injury.
The rest of the lines for Wednesday will likely go as follows:
Kapanen – Tavares – Marner
Johnsson – Matthews – Nylander
Mikheyev – Kerfoot – Timashov
Moore – Gauthier – Spezza
Muzzin – Barrie
Rielly – Ceci
Sandin – Marincin
It will be particularly interesting to see who the Leafs slot in on the RW of the Kerfoot line. A bubble player from tonight’s roster may play in that spot Wednesday, but Dmytro Timashov — who is not in the “AHL” lineup tonight — looks to be in contention for the spot as well. If the Leafs feel he can PK (see below) and knowing he provides a cap hit of just $694,000 while also now being waiver eligible, it may be Timashov who grabs the spot to start.
Leafs special teams units at practice
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 23, 2019
The Leafs have tried both Nic Petan and Pontus Aberg in that third-line RW spot with neither really laying claim to it, and both are playing tonight. There are other options here — Trevor Moore could move up and they could insert someone on the fourth-line LW, with Kenny Agostino being the name that comes to mind here. Nick Shore remains in the mix for the final wing spot as well.
Between the pipes, Michal Neuvirth and Michael Hutchinson were going split the crease time tonight, but apparently Neuvirth did not make the trip to Montreal. It’s possible the injury issue from earlier in camp has resurfaced for Neuvirth, who put in a good 40-minute performance against Buffalo on Saturday night. Hutchinson has been respectable but not spectacular in his playing time, although to his credit he has been healthy all through camp, unlike Neuvirth.
The two are also competing against the rest of the goaltenders in the league that are going to shake free on waivers before Oct. 2 if neither stakes a firm claim to the backup job for opening night.
Game Day Quotes
Babcock on the assumption the group not playing tonight is the group making the team:
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are four exhibition games left and we are going to watch. What we tried to do tonight is put a bunch of people under a serious amount of duress. In other words, you are going to be playing against NHL players and there are no guys on your team against you to help you, so you’re by yourself.
Those four D — they’re out there. A couple of our lines, it’s the same thing. We’ve got them in this situation to evaluate that group because we still don’t have enough players for our main group. So nothing is decided.
Matthews and Tavares are going to make the team, but what I am saying is the group there that we don’t know — nothing is decided so we are just working on it.
Babcock on whether Dmytro Timashov is in the mix for a spot:
This is what I like about Timo: I say to him all the time, “Why not you?” You put up the two groups, and if they weren’t in the one group, they’re [relieved]. If you’re not good enough, you feel really bad for yourself and the energy is out of you. If you’re good enough and you believe in yourself, though, and you’re hard-headed and say, “I can be on this team,” you get better, and you show.
This happens in every walk of life, not just hockey. This is just reality. You lose your job. You don’t pass your test. Things aren’t going good when you first go to college. This is where you surround yourself with the people you love and you dig in and you help yourself. Here is an opportunity for our guys.
Babcock on whether Timashov has a real shot:
Why not? This is what he does: He protects the puck. He is smart defensively. To me, he is not a tall body but he is a thick body. He can play with real good pace. His biggest area of concern is when he gets it, sometimes he turns it over too much.
What the young guys got to realize is that the big guys don’t turn it over because they don’t want to play defense. They take care of it so they get to play on offense. If he can do that, he can play.
Babcock on the strides Frederik Gauthier has taken:
The Goat — number one, it’s just confidence. It’s being in the league. It’s understanding. The Goat, everywhere he goes, he wins. He is a big, strong guy that I guarantee other teams, when they watch him, think, “That’s a big, strong fourth-line guy who can penalty kill and take faceoffs and start in d-zone.” That is what we are hoping. If Goat can keep taking these steps so that you can put him out in d-zone instead of John Tavares or Matthews, and they can always start in the o-zone, we are a better hockey team.
Babcock on Martin Marincin closing in on a lineup spot:
I think Marty has been real good. It’s never been about ability. It’s never been about skating. It’s never been about reading the game. It’s been about confidence. He’s gotten thicker and thicker and more and more confident and he sure looks like he wants to play for the Leafs. He’s just got to keep playing good.
Babcock on Trevor Moore’s camp:
He didn’t at first at all. He and I talked about that. I welcomed him back after last game. He was so good last game. That is what he is. He is kind of what I am hoping Timashov can be. They haven’t scored a lot at this level and I don’t know if they ever will, but they can penalty kill, transport the puck, and they can be heavy down low. They can get it back for the good players. They can play against really good players. They play with pace. They seem to always be ready to go. If he can do that, he just improves himself and can move up in the lineup.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
Agostino (20) – Shore (26) – Petan (61)
Archibald (49) – Brooks (77) – Bracco (29)
Korshkov (96) – Gaudet (32) – Read (12)
Engvall (47) – Elynuik (76) – Conrad (72)
Gravel (25) – Schmaltz (2)
Harpur (22) – Holl (3)
Rubins (56) – Liljegren (37)
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
Tatar – Domi – Drouin
Hudon – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Cousins – Thompson – Barber
Peca – Evans – Belzile
Chiarot – Petry
Kulak – Brook
Alzner – Fleury