A mediocre month of February meant the Toronto Maple Leafs were in a stand-pat mode at yesterday’s trade deadline. Tonight, with their roster locked in for the rest of the season and the challenge issued by the GM to respond, the Maple Leafs visit Tampa Bay to take on the NHL’s best team in 2020 (7 p.m. ET, SNO).
Unlike Toronto, Tampa will be working in some new faces after making a couple of additions to their roster yesterday.
In one of the more controversial moves among the 32 deals made yesterday, the Lightning acquired winger Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 third from San Jose in exchange for their 2020 first-round pick and AHL forward Anthony Greco. There is always a couple of first-round picks thrown around each deadline that raise eyebrows, and this certainly appears to be one of those deals.
Goodrow hadn’t played more than 10-11 minutes a night with San Jose consistently until the Sharks lost a chunk of their forward depth in the offseason. However, for a team with real designs on a Cup run, Goodrow has shown to be a quality defensive forward against average competition and has brought some penalty killing ability to the table as well — both things that could be useful to the Lightning over the course of a deep playoff run.
After failing to report to Rochester following his waiver placement, Zach Bogosian and the Sabres terminated his contract, making him a free agent on Saturday. Yesterday, the Lightning, in need of some added depth on defense with Ryan McDonagh sidelined through injury, inked Bogosian to a one-year deal at $1.3 million. Based on the practice pairs yesterday, the 29-year-old will feature on the bottom pair with Braydon Coburn tonight.
Additionally, Tampa Bay is still working in their biggest addition, Blake Coleman, who was acquired from New Jersey last weekend. Where exactly Coleman will fit in the Lightning’s playoff lineup remains to be seen, but, in two games with his new club, Coleman has played a little over 15 minutes a night, a predictably smaller role than he was playing on a shallow Devils team. Tampa seems to be searching for the right balance outside of a stacked top-line of Stamkos-Point-Kucherov, and in time, Coleman could be a significant part of the solution for them. It looks like he’ll start on the same line tonight as he did last game in a tough 7-3 loss to Arizona — alongside Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli.
For the Maple Leafs tonight, without much to show in terms of an NHL-roster upgrade yesterday, the focus is more on simply getting a hard-fought, consistent effort out of the existing group. A showing similar to Thursday’s win vs. Pittsburgh in Tampa Bay tonight would be the perfect way to turn the page and put the embarrassment of last Saturday in the rear-view mirror.
Some of the actual ins and outs of Saturday’s game were lost amid the attention on the David Ayres storyline. Sheldon Keefe argued the debacle had more to do with a lack of execution against a tight defensive front from Carolina than a lack of care or effort. In reality, it’s usually some combination of both. The team’s response tonight will be telling to an extent, although many the ardent critics of this team are looking for real signs of true consistency game-to-game before they buy into the idea of this Leafs team as anything more than a pretender.
The only lineup change tonight for the Leafs will be on the back-end, where Timothy Liljegren will reunite with Rasmus Sandin, while Travis Dermott moves back to the left side with Tyson Barrie. Martin Marincin will be a healthy scratch.
In goal, Frederik Andersen will start again with no back-to-backs until next week in L.A and Anaheim. For the Lightning, starting will be Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s experienced a small a dip statistically this year by his usual lofty standards — in 46 starts this season, he’s gone 32-11-3 with a .916 save percentage and a GSAx of -8.7.
Game Day Quotes
Jake Muzzin on the importance of structure:
Structure is huge. I find when we play with our intensity and our competitiveness but we also have that structure, we’re a dangerous team. When you get away from structure and allow skill players to break through easily and give them time and space, then they’re going to capitalize. Structure is huge for us.
Muzzin on Saturday’s loss:
I wasn’t happy — I don’t think any of us were. When we get away from being connected and playing the right way, you get results like that. I know there was a big thing about the goalie going in, but it wasn’t losing to him. It was losing to a good hockey team that outplayed us. That’s what happened.
Tyson Barrie on the stress he experienced in the lead up to the deadline:
The few days leading up to [the trade deadline] were a little more stressful than I anticipated. It’s behind us now — I had a good chat with Kyle and we’re moving forward. I’m ready to go.
Sheldon Keefe on Barrie’s value to the team:
I’ve reiterated to Tyson a number of times that he’s an important player on our team. It was a priority for me coming here to make him important and get him back to playing at the level he’s capable of. I think we’ve found a way to do those things and make him feel important. He’s responded well — his production has gone up drastically and he’s really helped our power play. He’s taking on a lot now here, especially since we’ve lost Morgan and now Cody Ceci. The experience we have on the back-end is thin and a guy like him is important to us.
Keefe on the challenges the Lightning present:
Well, I don’t think I even need to dig too far into the pre-scout to know about the challenges. It’s well documented and well earned in terms of their reputation in the league. The challenges that they present is just a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of depth throughout their lineup. They’ve been having their way with the league here in the last few months before having the pieces that they’ve added here to increase their depth. They’re coming off a road trip that didn’t go the way they’d like it to I’m sure — we’re expecting them to be able to play today.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#88 William Nylander – #91 John Tavares – #62 Denis Malgin
#47 Pierre Engvall – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#73 Kyle Clifford – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #19 Jason Spezza
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #94 Tyson Barrie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#31 Frederik Andersen (starter)
#36 Jack Campbell
Scratched: Martin Marincin
Injured: Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, Andreas Johnsson
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
#91 Steven Stamkos – #21 Brayden Point – #86 Nikita Kucherov
#20 Blake Coleman – #71 Anthony Cirelli – #17 Alex Killorn
#18 Ondrej Palat – #9 Tyler Johnson – #19 Barclay Goodrow
#14 Patrick Maroon – #13 Cedric Paquette – #37 Yanni Gourde
#77 Victor Hedman – #81 Erik Cernak
#98 Mikhail Sergachev – #22 Kevin Shattenkirk
#55 Braydon Coburn – #24 Zach Bogosian
#88 Andrei Vasilevskiy (starter)
#35 Curtis McElhinney
Injured: Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta