After three straight losses — two in regulation — the Toronto Maple Leafs need to bounce back in Detroit tonight on HNIC (7 p.m. ET).
The first (mini)bout of adversity has arrived already this season in the form of three straight losses: A collapse ending in an OT defeat against Montreal (somewhat mitigated by it being a back-to-back for the Leafs), a hard-luck loss to St. Louis, and a stinker against a hungry Lightning team.
The Leafs will be looking for responses from the Tavares/Marner line, the Morgan Rielly-Cody Ceci pairing, and Frederik Andersen, in particular. The Rielly – Ceci pair took on a lot of minutes against the Stamkos line vs. Tampa and got filled in on Thursday; while Detroit’s firepower up front isn’t on the level of Tampa’s, the start to the year from the Bertuzzi (three goals, three assists) – Larkin (one goal, four assists) – Mantha (six goals, eight points) line deserves plenty of respect.
The line has pace, size, and skill to burn with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha to go along with Tyler Bertuzzi playing the “Hyman” role effectively for them early in the year. The Leafs cannot back off and concede the defensive blue line as easily as they did against Tampa or the Red Wings are capable of inflicting damage with their abundance of speed up front, particularly with Mantha, Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou on their top two lines.
The Wings have gotten competent goaltending from the platoon of Jonathan Bernier and Jimmy Howard early on (.914), while the Leafs are waiting for Frederik Andersen to settle into his expected form; the Leafs have given up too many grade-A looks off of breakdowns in the last week, but .876 goaltending isn’t going to cut it, no matter how you slice it.
Good teams don’t let 0-2-1 blips stretch into something worse, particularly up against opponents they should beat. Regardless of how young the season is, the Leafs need to come up with a response tonight.
Game Day Quotes
Frederik Andersen on whether he’s facing an early test of his mental strength:
I’ve spent less time thinking about it than you guys have, I guess. That’s all you guys want to talk about. You’ve just got to keep going.
Mike Babcock on the need to bounce back after consecutive regulation losses:
We’ve liked lots of things we’ve done. We didn’t like ourselves at all the other night and feel we can play at a way higher level. We have an opportunity today. We’d have liked the game to be yesterday, but it’s today, so let’s play well.
Babcock on Frederik Andersen’s early struggles:
It hasn’t been going for the start of the year. We’ve got to do a better job ourselves. The way I look at it, we’re all in this together. We’ve got to pick each other up. We’ve got to be sound defensively. Over a period of time, he usually gets himself dialed in and ready to go and feeling better. I don’t know why the pattern is like it is. It is. So let’s battle.
Babcock on Justin Holl’s strong play of late:
Whether you play or you don’t play, and you’re in the NHL all year and you wait and train and you’re around the guys, you learn a lot. He’s been off to a pretty good start for us. I thought he was tentative at the start of last game, but I thought he played well in the game. It’s simple for us. We just watch, and then if you play good, you get to play more. Good for him. This is what he wanted. He is getting an opportunity right now. You’ve got to seize it.
Babcock on the challenge Anthony Mantha presents on his line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin:
Speed through the middle. I remember the year I was here and Mantha had the one year in junior, if I am not mistaken, where it was like 96 goals — I watched the Memorial Cup, and in the 95 games if you include the playoffs. It’s taken him some time, but he can flat out score. Bert is at the net for him and plays hard. They’ve got a good line there. We’ve got to limit their time and space like all other good lines. There is a challenge every night in the league for you and this is one.
Babcock on Nick Shore re-entering the lineup:
Last game, we got on our heels on the penalty kill. We didn’t like how we went about it. We’ve addressed that and we’ve got to be on our toes. Shoresy is real good in that area. His whole career, that is what he’s done. It’s an important piece.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#24 Kasperi Kapanen – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #42 Trevor Moore
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #26 Nick Shore
#8 Jake Muzzin – #94 Tyson Barrie
#44 Morgan Rielly – #83 Cody Ceci
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #3 Justin Holl
#31 Frederik Andersen
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Martin Marincin, Nick Shore, Dmytro Timashov
Injured: Zach Hyman, Travis Dermott
Marner – Tavares – Matthews
Nylander – Kerfoot – Spezza
Detroit Red Wings Projected Lines
Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha
Luke Glendening – Andreas Athanasiou – Taro Hirose
Christoffer Ehn – Valtteri Filppula – Adam Erne
Darren Helm – Jacob de la Rose – Justin Abdelkader
Danny DeKeyser – Alex Biega
Patrik Nemeth – Mike Green
Dennis Cholowski – Madison Bowey