The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to extend their winning streak to five games and their points streak to 10 in their penultimate meeting against the Ottawa Senators tonight on Hockey Night in Canada (Sportsnet, 7 p.m. EST).
In the final game before the deadline and with William Nylander out for precautionary Covid-related reasons, the Leafs will be experimenting with a new look among the forward lines: former Senator Alex Galchenyuk will join the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Speaking today of the decision to move on from Galchenyuk in Ottawa’s trade with Carolina — before the Canes flipped him to Toronto — Senators head coach DJ Smith cited his organization prioritizing ice-time opportunities for its young talent as well as the team’s depth on the left side with Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Nick Paul, and Alex Formenton. Notably, Smith went out of his way to praise the professionalism and attention to detail Galchenyuk showed in his Ottawa stint.
That’s what has been most impressive about Galchenyuk in Toronto date — he is pairing his offensive skill set with a work ethic and a high level of urgency shift-to-shift, visible in his efforts on the forecheck and commitment away from the puck. It’s early, and Galchenyuk has faded away after good starts in some of his previous stops around the league, but he might have found finally the right situation on a vibrant Leafs offense that had some prime opportunities available on the left side of the lineup — opportunities he has so far grabbed with both hands.
While the Leafs have found a way to win four of the seven games — and collect points in five of the seven — in the season series to date, rarely have these games been easy chores for Toronto, including the last time (a 3-2 overtime win) that they faced tonight’s starter in Anton Forsberg, who is 1-2-1 with a .918 save percentage this season.
Forsberg is a pending UFA, and with Matt Murray nearing a return and Marcus Hogberg also in the mix, it’s possible the Senators could be treating this a bit of a showcase situation before Monday’s deadline. If the Leafs choose to add a fourth NHL goalie to insulate the health concerns of Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell, Forsberg could be a cheap option to consider, both in terms of cap hit ($700k) and acquisition cost.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the addition of Riley Nash:
What I know of him and what stands out to me is the way he played against us in the playoffs in the series against Columbus. I thought he was a real factor. I got a sense of what he can bring there as a guy who gets really difficult matchups, starts in his own end, plays against good players. I thought he had a lot of shifts against our best players where you thought you would be getting the upper hand and it didn’t work out that way.
He has a history of being a very reliable defensive player — a guy who knows exactly who he is and what he needs to do to help his team win. It is great for us to be able to add someone of his experience. He is a little bit different in how he plays lower in the lineup. The priority for us is to get him healthy and go from there. We are excited to add him to the group.
Keefe on Andersen’s injury status:
The easiest way to describe it is that there is no timeline to the injury. It is just a matter of Fred being comfortable with where he is at and how he is feeling.
Keefe on Galchenyuk’s potential fit with Matthews and Marner:
I am just curious. That is the biggest piece of it. Alex has played extremely well — skated well, is making plays, has lots of confidence. I feel good about how he has done with John and how that line with Will has worked out. I think he has brought a lot to that.
The line is broken up with Will’s absence, so it is a good opportunity here now for me to give him a look on a different line and see how that goes. Hyman with Matthews and Marner was rolling pretty well. We have an abundance of confidence that line, at any time, can be rolling for us.
It is important for us with the games remaining in the regular season to try some different things and be sure that we have the right mix by the time we get through it.
DJ Smith on Alex Galchenyuk not working out in Ottawa:
He worked really hard. He worked on the details. He worked away from the puck. Ultimately, we have some guys in front of him. For us, you have Brady Tkachuk on the left side, Tim Stutzle, Nick Paul. You have a bunch of guys. You’ve got Formenton.
With where we are at as a team and the process we are in, the kids not only have to play but deserve to play as well. They have played well. It is no slight to him. He is plenty good enough to play, but at what cost? I think Tim Stutzle has had a great year, Brady is a real good player, and Nick Paul as well. It was kind of jammed on the left side.
I can tell you he worked hard off the ice. He was a good teammate. He really worked on his details. We are happy he has had an opportunity here and has run with it.
Smith on Connor Brown’s six-game goal streak:
He is getting to the net. It is such an easy thing to say, but I think when players go cold, they aren’t near the net. They don’t shoot enough. If you look, he is getting four or five shots a game now. Sometimes the puck just finds a way to go in. Sometimes, you want the perfect shot to go in for you. Just keep getting volume to the net and eventually they go in.
Like anything else, his confidence is as high as it has ever been. When he wasn’t scoring, it wasn’t. It is a streaky league. You just have to keep working every day and doing the right things. Sometimes the bounces go your way.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #65 Ilya Mikheyev
#97 Joe Thornton – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #19 Jason Spezza
#94 Alex Barabanov – #47 Pierre Engvall – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Covid list (precautionary): William Nylander
Extras: Martin Marincin, Alexander Barabanov, Timothy Liljegren, Adam Brooks, Scott Sabourin, Veini Vehvilainen
Injured: Frederik Andersen
Ottawa Senators Projected Lines
#7 Brady Tkachuk – #9 Josh Norris – #13 Nick Paul
#18 Tim Stutzle – #71 Chris Tierney – #19 Drake Batherson
#29 Mike Amadio – #51 Artem Anisimov – #63 Evgenii Dadonov
#59 Alex Formenton – #64 Clark Bishop – #28 Connor Brown
#72 Thomas Chabot – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#38 Mike Reilly – #2 Artem Zub
#26 Erik Brannstrom – #44 Erik Gudbranson
#31 Anton Forsberg (starter)
#1 Marcus Hogberg
Injured: Matt Murray, Joey Daccord, Derek Stepan, Austin Watson, Colin White