Last night, after coughing up a third-period lead twice, John Tavares earned the Toronto Maple Leafs their first win in front of Jack Campbell in overtime against Anaheim.
After making the trip to Montreal last night, Campbell and the Leafs have an opportunity tonight to get on a roll and put some distance in front of a Habs team that is currently six points behind them in the Atlantic Division standings (7 p.m. ET, CBC).
It wasn’t exactly an exuberant post-game media availability last night from Sheldon Keefe, who seemed thoroughly disappointed about his team’s tentativeness in the third period, where they forfeited 3-1 and 4-3 leads.
Right from the drop of the puck in the third, we were just on our heels. It just seems like we are lacking some confidence in those situations. It’s almost like we are waiting or expecting something bad to happen. It’s not what we want to be about. Clearly, when we play like that, we are not a very good team.
With a rested Habs team waiting for the Leafs in Montreal since their win over Anaheim on Thursday, the team’s ability to put together a 60-minute effort will be tested tonight.
Both the Habs record (8-3-0) and underlying metrics have seen an uptick in the last few weeks. An analytics darling at 5v5 for a few years now under Claude Julien, their xGF trend line is headed sharply in the right direction, although it’s probably too little too late for a real shot at the playoffs in the East. If we isolate for just the last month (right after the Habs snapped an eight-game losing streak), Montreal is tops in the league in xGF% at 57%, while Toronto has been coming back down to Earth somewhat.
Over the last month, goaltending has been a huge factor in both Toronto and Montreal’s results — the Habs are fifth in the league in all situations save percentage, while the Leafs are 30th. Jack Campbell and Carey Price are the expected starters for tonight; it will be the first time in his NHL career that Campbell has started two games back-to-back, although it’s something he’s done in the AHL before. Price has gone 23-18-4 this season with a .912 save percentage and a GSAx of -4
There wasn’t a morning skate today with the back-to-back, so there’s no indication of any lineup changes coming for Toronto. Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, on a pair together for the first time in the NHL, played 10 minutes at five-on-five last night compared to around 20 for the Muzzin-Holl and Dermott-Barrie pairs. That amount of ice time wasn’t unexpected in Liljegren’s second NHL game, but Keefe might turn to them more tonight in a tired situation for the Leafs.
In terms of the game-time decisions:
Claude Julien says their is a chance Drouin could be back tonight @CanadiensMTL
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) February 8, 2020
For the second game in a row, William Nylander isn’t expected to play due to illness.
Campbell back-to-back for TOR. Nylander still absent
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 8, 2020
Game Day Quotes
Claude Julien on the team’s confidence in its playoff aspirations:
I don’t think there was ever doubt. I didn’t even sense that anybody was throwing a towel and saying, “This is insurmountable. We won’t be able to do it.” There has always been a belief. There have been times that we’ve taken some solid blows and you think, “How are we going to get past that?” The next game, we bounce back.
I don’t think there is anybody that doesn’t believe it yet. I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t know it’s going to be a big challenge for us. But it is not a challenge we don’t think we can surmount. We are going to do our best to make it happen. Games are getting fewer and fewer and there is less and less time, but if we keep winning, you never know. If we go 8-3 every 11 games from here on in, we’ve got a chance.
Nick Suzuki on the magnitude of the game:
It is going to be a huge two points in the standings. We have to be real prepared. They’ve got a ton of talent over there and we are going to have to be solid defensively.
Brendan Gallagher on the importance of the game for the Canadiens:
We are not lying to you guys when we say we haven’t given up. That said, we are nowhere near the end of it. It is going to be a lot of work. This game here is easily the most important game of the year, but that’s just because it’s the next one. It’s next game up. We’ve got to find a way to win. It’s a big rivalry and there is going to be a lot of emotion. We should show up and play our best game.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #11 Zach Hyman
#73 Kyle Clifford – #47 Pierre Engvall – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #19 Jason Spezza
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #94 Tyson Barrie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Martin Marincin
Injured: Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, Frederik Andersen, Cody Ceci, William Nylander
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
#90 Tomas Tatar – #24 Phillip Danault – #11 Brendan Gallagher
#62 Artturi Lehkonen – #14 Nick Suzuki – #40 Joel Armia
#17 Ilya Kovalchuk – #13 Max Domi – #71 Jake Evans
#21 Nick Cousins – #44 Nate Thompson – #22 Dale Weise
#8 Ben Chiarot – #53 Victor Mete
#77 Brett Kulak – #26 Jeff Petry
#28 Marco Scandella – #32 Christian Folin
#31 Carey Price (starter)
#39 Charlie Lindgren
Injured: Shea Weber, Ryan Poehling, Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Noah Juulsen