With a hard-fought but ultimately mistake-ridden loss to Boston last night, the Maple Leafs have now fallen to 4-4-3 in their last ten games on the back of a four-game losing streak. Tonight, they turn to 26-year-old rookie Kasmir Kaskisuo in net as they look for their first win in a back-to-back situation in their sixth attempt of the season (7 p.m ET, CBC).
Toronto originally singed Finnish-born Kasmir Kaskisuo back in March of the 2015-16 season. Since then, Kaskisuo has had a very goalie-typical up and down start to his professional career. Ultimately, the Leafs decided now was the appropriate time to give Kaskisuo a shot because of two factors: Michael Hutchinson’s inability to make big saves in tough back-to-back situations, and Kaskisuo’s hot 6-1-1 (.928 Sv%) with the Marlies.
Last season, while Michael Hutchinson was called up to the Leafs at the end of the regular season to back up in favour of Garret Sparks, who remained with the Leafs as the third option, Kaskisuo was promoted to Marlies starter for the playoffs. He had spent almost all of the 2017-18 season loaned to the Chicago Wolves while Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard dominated the crease for the Marlies in the Calder Cup winning season. Then, last season, he played 30 games for the Marlies, serving as starter for most of the year and finishing with a 12-14-1 record and an .896 Sv%. It was his performance in the playoffs that turned heads, however, as he led the Marlies on their improbable run to the conference finals, where he started 12 games and had an AHL playoff best .927 save percentage.
With the loss of Trevor Moore to a shoulder injury, the Leafs lose one of their best forecheckers and a solid depth contributor so far this year. Moore has spent most of his time this year on either John Tavares or Alex Kerfoot’s line, with Ilya Mikheyev and Kasperi Kapanen as his most common winger linemates. The Leafs have begun to trust Moore against tougher competition not long into his NHL career; he’s earned a bit of a jump on players like Mikheyev and Petan for assignments on top lines when injuries occur.
With Moore out, we’ll have to wait until game time to see how the lines shake out. It will most certainly be Dmytro Timashov coming back while Moore recovers — he should slot back with Frederik Gauthier and Nick Shore. That likely means Nic Petan moving up to Jason Spezza’s line, as Babcock has shown he’s keen on keeping Shore and Gauthier together for defensive zone draw assignments.
The Penguins, despite injuries appearing from everywhere this season, have maintained fantastic shot and chance shares this year, especially defensively. Their shooting percentage and save percentage are around league average (16th & 17th, respectively), which has held back their record a little bit (10-7-2) even though they’re second in the league in both xGF% and CF%. There will be no Sidney Crosby or Kris Letang for the Penguins tonight, but that hasn’t stopped them from piecing together winning stretches in the past.
Both teams are tired after playing last night, so while the Leafs had to travel after their loss to Boston, like the Chicago game last Sunday, there is no excuse tonight.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #19 Jason Spezza – #61 Nic Petan
#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
#50 Kasimir Kaskisuo (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Scratched: Martin Marincin
Injured: Mitch Marner, Alexander Kerfoot, Trevor Moore
Matthews – Johnsson – Nylander
Kapanen – Petan – Spezza
Pittsburgh Penguins Projected Lines
#59 Jake Guentzel – #71 Evgeni Malkin – #17 Bryan Rust
#27 Alex Galchenyuk – #27 Nick Bjugstad – #37 Sam Lafferty
#24 Dominik Kahun – #19 Jared McCann – #12 Dominik Simon
#46 Zach Aston-Reese – #59 Teddy Blueger – #13 Brandon Tanev
#8 Brian Dumoulin – #6 John Marino
#28 Marcus Pettersson – #4 Justin Schultz
#3 Jack Johnson – #50 Juuso Riikola
#35 Tristan Jarry (starter)
#30 Matt Murray
Injured: Patrick Hornqvist, Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby