The Toronto Maple Leafs are trying out a new look at the bottom of their forward group in the rematch against the Flames tonight in Calgary (9 p.m. EST, SN One, SN Ontario).
There wasn’t much hard matching from Toronto’s perspective in their 3-2 road win on Sunday evening, as each team’s top three lines all saw a fair bit of each other. Both teams kept their bottom line’s out of the way for the most part, although Pierre Engvall did get some additional shifts outside of the handful of minutes with linemates Alexander Barabanov and Jason Spezza.
Engvall, since his return, has provided some speed and transition ability that was much needed in Toronto’s bottom six. Nick Robertson’s opening night injury combined with Engvall’s initial demotion meant Toronto lacked those elements among the complementary players on their roster. Earning some trust back from the coaching staff in his last few games, Engvall gives the Leafs a useful player that can slot into different spots in the lineup on top of some secondary PK usage.
Joining Engvall at the bottom of the lineup tonight will be Travis Boyd and Joey Anderson, who will both make their debuts for the Maple Leafs in the place of Alexander Barabanov and Jason Spezza — the latter is taking a rest day. Both names might be relative unknowns to Leafs fans, but there’s reason to hope both could be useful depth options on the roster, and providing some rotational opportunity is a worthwhile exercise as the Leafs look for more contributors in their forward depth ranks.
Boyd, a 27-year-old forward who has played mostly center in his professional career, has featured in 85 NHL games, 77 of them in the past two regular seasons. Over those 85 NHL games, he’s amassed a respectable 31 points (8g,23a). Before he became a part-time NHLer, he spent three full seasons with the Hershey Bears from ages 22-24, finishing with a total of 166 points in 213 games as a top-line scorer.
The 22-year-old Anderson has split time evenly between the AHL and NHL the past two regular seasons, recording 40 points in 54 games in the AHL and 13 in 52 NHL games. Acquired as the full return in the Andreas Johnsson trade, Anderson has earned praise from Kyle Dubas and the Leafs‘ pro scouts for his work rate and forechecking presence.
The unfortunate announcement this morning that goaltender Jack Campbell will miss “weeks” with a leg injury will put more pressure on Frederik Andersen to string together quality starts with greater consistency. He’ll now be backstopped by the very goaltender (Michael Hutchinson) whose play — albeit with little help in front of him in some of his worst losses — kicked into high gear the organization’s trade pursuit of a quality backup.
Since leaving the Leafs organization briefly at the trade deadline, Hutchinson put on a respectable showing in three playoff games for Colorado in the bubble, going 2-1-0 with a .910 save percentage. If the Leafs do need to call on Hutchinson in the next few weeks, the hope will be they can insulate him a little better with their defensive play, which has shown encouraging signs of progress in the first seven games of the season.
On defense, Mikko Lehtonen will draw in for Travis Dermott tonight in what will be the KHL import’s first opportunity to skate a regular shift in the team’s top six with a regular partner in Zach Bogosian.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on Jack Campbell’s status:
He’s got an injury that’s going to keep him out for weeks here. Not days, but weeks. We’re obviously going to monitor his progress over that time. [Joseph] Woll is en route here and awaiting protocols to eventually join us as the third goalie over here on our taxi squad. Michael Hutchinson will back up tonight.
Keefe on Mikheyev and his potential fit with Nylander and Tavares:
Well, I think the chemistry has been good, not just this season but last as well. They’ve been playing with Vesey then things have moved around a little bit since we’ve started to deal with injuries. But Mikheyev has played very well — he’s played with JT as well [before]. He’s got lots of speed and I think he’s been good the last few games. It hasn’t resulted in goals or points or anything like that quite yet but he’s been getting opportunities and it’s just a matter of time.
Keefe on Travis Boyd:
What stood out to me was really before he got here watching him in Washington. He got some playoff experience in Washington. I coached against him in the American League where he’s a dynamic player and a dangerous scorer. He also found a role and a way to produce despite playing on the fourth line — he produced a good clip in 70-something games. I think he’s got off to a slower start in camp with everything here — quarantines and all those types of things that he had to serve before coming into camp — and it didn’t help his cause. Of course, there were no exhibition games, which set him behind as well. We think he’s got a lot to offer as a player.
Keefe on power-play coach Manny Malhotra’s fit with the team so far:
He’s been very good. First of all, he came in with a plan and was very prepared and organized. He communicates with the players exceptionally well. He also gives them ownership of [the power play] and holds them accountable to it, so I think we’ve got a lot of really positive things happening there.
We think there’s still areas where our power play can improve. We have different looks this season, obviously, with how we’ve set up our units and dealing with injuries now. It’s moved around a little bit. I think the way Manny prepares and communicates to our players has set us up for success. It’s obviously been a strength of ours so far.
Keefe on the impact of the number of consecutive games against the same opponent this season:
It’s more of a playoff feel from a coaching perspective. You’re looking back on the game you played the night before and you’re looking for any adjustments you need to make that might able to impact the next game directly with the same opponent.
At the same time, your opponent is going to make adjustments as well, so you have that part of it. It’s difficult to beat a team twice — we’ve been on the other side of this, both against Ottawa and against Edmonton. We lost the first game [to Edmonton] and had to find a way to win the second and we were successful in that.
These two or three-game sets are really important. If you’re going to try to separate yourself from the pack, you need to be able to win back-to-back games. It’s not easy. On the other side of it, it’s important that you don’t lose two in a row.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#88 William Nylander – #91 John Tavares – #65 Ilya Mikheyev
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#47 Pierre Engvall – #72 Travis Boyd – #28 Joey Anderson
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#46 Mikko Lehtonen – #22 Zach Bogosian
#31 Frederik Andersen (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Extras: Adam Brooks, Alexander Barabanov, Rasmus Sandin, Travis Dermott
Injured: Nick Robertson, Joe Thornton, Jack Campbell
Rest: Jason Spezza
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#88 Andrew Mangiapane – #28 Elias Lindholm – #19 Matthew Tkachuk
#13 Johnny Gaudreau– #23 Sean Monahan– #18 Dominik Simon
#93 Sam Bennett – #11 Mikael Backlund – #27 Josh Leivo
#17 Milan Lucic – #10 Derek Ryan – #20 Joakim Norstrom
#5 Mark Giordano – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#55 Noah Hanifin – #8 Chris Tanev
#6 Jusso Valimaki – #89 Nikita Nesterov
#25 Jakob Markstrom (starter)
#33 David Rittich
Extras: Louis Domingue, Connor Mackey, Oliver Kylington, Zac Rinaldo, Buddy Robinson
Injured: Dillon Dube