A slow start culminated in a goalie change and led to a 6-4 loss to Edmonton on Monday as Connor McDavid had his way at Scotiabank Arena. Now the Toronto Maple Leafs look to bounce back as they take on Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets for the second time in a week (7:30 p.m. ET, SNO).
After the Leafs‘ five-man unit of the John Tavares line plus the Martin Marincin – Justin Holl pairing struggled heavily in the McDavid matchup, Sheldon Keefe has a matchup decision to make tonight with the Jets’ big line coming to town.
The Auston Matthews line and the Morgan Rielly-Tyson Barrie pair struggled on the road against the Jets’ top group last week — the Kyle Connor-Mark Scheifele-Patrick Laine line produced 21 shot attempts, 13 against, and 63% expected goals.
The question then becomes: Will Keefe stick with Marincin – Holl as his shutdown pairing with matchup control on home ice? Keefe has shown himself to be quick to adapt but isn’t necessarily a reactionary type, and many credible defense pairings have lost the McDavid matchup over the years. It’s quite possible he sticks with what seemed to be a decent stopgap solution up until that point.
More generally, the Leafs are looking for responses tonight in a couple of areas: 1) Getting back to starting fast on home ice after a slow, sloppy start vs. Edmonton; 2) Tightening up through the neutral and defensive zones against an elite center and spending more time in the offensive zone with the opposition’s top line on the ice; 3) Responding with a better effort in front of Frederik Andersen, who was pulled from the game vs. Edmonton after Keefe decided the team wasn’t competing hard enough in front of its starter.
There has hardly been a drop of adversity for the Leafs under Keefe since their back-to-back losses to the Flyers and Avalance in early December. It would be a stretch to call one loss to the Oilers on a night when McDavid played out of his mind and ended the Leafs‘ 10-game points streak “adversity,” but you are looking for a response — to not allow one substandard effort to bleed into the next — and for the Leafs to stop the bleeding defensively against top lines, while keeping the good times rolling offensively.
Game Day Quotes
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #77 Adam Brooks
#44 Morgan Rielly – #94 Tyson Barrie
#52 Martin Marincin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #83 Cody Ceci
#31 Frederik Andersen (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Mason Marchment
Injured: Andreas Johnsson, Trevor Moore, Ilya Mikheyev, Jake Muzzin
Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines
#81 Kyle Connor – #55 Mark Scheifele – #29 Patrik Laine
#27 Nikolaj Ehlers – #26 Blake Wheeler – #28 Jack Roslovic
#9 Andrew Copp – #17 Adam Lowry – #85 Mathieu Perreault
#57 Gabriel Bourque – #21 Nick Shore – #82 Mason Appleton
#44 Josh Morrissey – #3 Tucker Poolman
#5 Luca Sbisa – #4 Neal Pionk
#8 Sami Niku – #2 Anthony Bitetto
#37 Connor Hellebuyck (starter)
#30 Lauren Brossoit
Injured: Mark Letestu, Bryan Little, Dmytri Kulikov