After another Leafs vs. Flyers game ended in a shootout last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs take the short flight over to Chicago for a chance to make it a four-out-of-five week, but they’ll have to do it without Mitch Marner (7 p.m. ET, CBC).
While there won’t be any real update on the seriousness of Marner’s situation until Monday, it’s clear just by watching the clips last night that there’s a good chance that the ankle injury will entail some missed time. As with any injury, it adds a little bit more intrigue to the line combinations.
John Tavares hasn’t played a game with the Leafs sans Mitch Marner on his wing and, while I’m less concerned about Tavares performing at a high level without Marner, I am certainly intrigued about who the team decided to put on his wings for the time being.
Moore has been on the left side with Tavares and Marner since JT returned from his finger injury. You could make the argument Ilya Mikheyev is a better fit there with Marner gone, but the two have both produced at very similar offensive rates (Moore with 0.9 ixGF/60 and 0.87 for Mikheyev), while Mikheyev has generated a few more overall shot attempts in the Ozone (12.3 iCF/60 for Moore and 15.8 for Mikheyev). On the right side, it looks like Kasperi Kapanen will get a second look with Tavares after the first go-around — with Kapanen on the left — didn’t go quite as planned.
With Marner absent from the power play tonight, it means a top power-play opportunity for William Nylander, who will play the half wall opposite Matthews. That gives the unit a shot threat from both sides that hopefully leads to a spark for a unit that has been way under-performing to start the season.
Although the Blackhawks have lacked quality depth to their roster for a few years now, the team looks like they have their best goaltending duo in years based on the start to their 2019-20 season. Robin Lehner, who will presumably start tonight after Corey Crawford picked up the win yesterday, has been the more successful of the two this year despite the pair essentially splitting starts. Lehner, along with Thomas Greiss, famously carried the Islanders into a 48-win season last year in a similar platoon situation. He looks to be carrying his strong numbers from last year over into the ’19-20 season, which is a huge boost for a Chicago team that will need consistently stellar goaltending for a chance at the playoffs.
That is what the Leafs have lacked for over a year now — a good second option in goal — but you could make the argument Michael Hutchinson has been hard done by with poor defensive performances from the team in front of him in strictly back-to-back situations, typically against strong opposition to date. There hasn’t been much of an effort to get Hutchinson into more favourable starting situations against weaker competition behind a rested team, but this is a 5-7-0 Chicago team that will be tired as well tonight, meaning it should be a good opportunity for him to pick up his first win of the year.
Game Day Interviews
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#42 Trevor Moore – #91 John Tavares – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alexander Kerfoot – #19 Jason Spezza
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #26 Nick Shore
#44 Morgan Rielly – #83 Cody Ceci
#8 Jake Muzzin – #94 Tyson Barrie
#23 Travis Dermott – #3 Justin Holl
#30 Michael Hutchinson (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Scratched: Martin Marincin
Injured: Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner
Matthews – Tavares – Nylander
Kerfoot – Moore – Spezza
Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lines
#92 Alex Nylander – #19 Jonathan Toews – #20 Brandon Saad
#12 Alex DeBrincat – #17 Dylan Strome – #88 Patrick Kane
#91 Drake Caggiula – #64 David Kampf – #9 Dominik Kubalik
#15 Zach Smith – #22 Ryan Carpenter – #65 Andrew Shaw
#56 Erik Gustafsson – #2 Duncan Keith
#44 Clavin De Hann – #7 Brent Seabrook
#6 Olli Maatta – #68 Slater Koekkoek
#40 Robin Lehner (starter)
#50 Corey Crawford
Injured: Connor Murphy, John Quenneville