The Maple Leafs survived a shaky third-period last night to win a 2-1 game and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven. Tonight, they can put a stranglehold on the series in the second game of a back-to-back in Montreal (7:30 p.m. EST, CBC/Sportsnet).
Sheldon Keefe confirmed in his post-game availability that Nick Foligno’s absence was in fact a last-minute decision. Foligno didn’t skate in the morning, but he was expected to play before he decided he didn’t feel good enough in warmups and was replaced by Riley Nash. Foligno will again be a game-time decision tonight.
Nash featured as a regular on the penalty kill, but he had a more limited five-on-five role, playing only seven minutes at evens, which ranked last among all Toronto’s skaters.
It was Alex Kerfoot who received the largest boost in responsibility in Foligno’s absence, playing almost 13 minutes at five-on-five in addition to a role on both special teams. He was deployed as a top forward — behind only Marner, Hyman, and Matthews in 5v5 ice time — and responded with possibly his best performance in a Leaf sweater.
While Nash looked comfortable last night and can play a useful role for the Leafs taking defensive-zone faceoffs, you could make the case to insert Adam Brooks’ fresh legs in the place of Nash tonight. Brooks played 11 games with the Leafs this season, six of them in April and four in May, and saw his ice time grow as he played more games, averaging almost 11 minutes TOI.
Brooks was praised by Keefe for etching a role in a lineup that certainly did not have a free spot open for him at the time. His energy in all situations was apparent, and he would provide added speed and transition ability to complement players like Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, and Wayne Simmonds, who have struggled in that regard at times this season. With Kerfoot, Marner, Hyman, and Mikheyev all healthy, the Leafs aren’t desperate for Nash’s PK experience. Additionally, Brooks looked very comfortable centering Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza for five-ish games back in April.
Outside of a possible change there and the uncertainty around Nick Foligno’s health, there aren’t likely to be any other changes to Toronto’s lineup tonight. In net, another excellent game from Jack Campbell last night should make it an easy choice to start him again tonight. However, it’s unlikely we’ll receive any confirmation before warmups.
Montreal’s lineup situation is much less clear. Both Jake Evans and Eric Staal are possibilities for tonight after missing Game 3 with injuries, but it’s not clear if either would even get into the lineup if they are healthy given the performances of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield as replacements. Artturi Lehkonen is also questionable with a lower-body injury after leaving Game 3 in the first period.
In the event that all of Staal, Evans, and Lehkonen are unavailable, it could be Michael Frolik who dresses for Montreal. Frolik only played eight games with the Habs this season, going pointless while averaging 11:27 of ice time.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the team’s lineup decisions for tonight:
Brooks and Dermott will play. In terms of who will come out, that won’t be decided until after warmups.
Keefe on the team’s nine-for-nine penalty kill in the series:
The guys have done a good job. In the last 10 or so games coming into the playoffs, the penalty killing was really building some positive momentum for us. They have carried that forward.
We have made subtle adjustments each game as Montreal has made adjustments. The guys have handled it very well. It was obviously put to the test in a big way to start Game 3 having to kill four minutes right out of the gates to start the game. That is a big moment, and the guys were exceptional in that time, as they have been through three games.
We are staying on top of it to try to keep it at that level.
Dominique Ducharme on the team spending prolonged shifts in its own end in second periods:
Last night, we got caught two or three times. When it happened, it started with our play with the puck. From there, once you are in that situation, it is hard to kill plays. Simple as that.
They are a team that is pretty good at one-on-ones. They have skills, and they can move well. If you don’t have that energy, that is where they have more time.
At times, it will happen. We had one shift like that against them in the second period last night. It is just about managing the damage there, buying time, and protecting the middle. Sometimes you expect to spend a little bit more time in your zone, but keep everything to the outside and wait for the right time to strike and get the puck back, or get a save from the goalie where he can freeze the puck.
You cannot start running around tired, opening up even more things. Quite often, it started with the way we managed the puck or the way we executed with the puck.
Ducharme on Cole Caufield’s placement on the power play on his strong side vs. one-time side:
He can go both sides. That is something that we can use. Depending on who he is going to be on with, he might be going on the left side or going on the right. That is something that is good for a goal scorer — to be able to play different spots like that on the power play. It makes it less predictable. I think he is good at shooting the puck from both sides.
Josh Anderson on the Leafs‘ defensive play:
They’ve been doing a good job of holding us up and boxing us out in front of the net. We watched some tape. We studied it a little bit. We have to go out there and perform. We need a better effort from everyone, including myself.I think you will see a much hungrier team tonight.
Nick Suzuki on his team’s struggles with prolonged own-zone shifts in the second period:
If you are given an opportunity to get pucks out at the blue line, we need to be strong on those plays. On their second goal, they had a few offensive-zone changes. There was an icing and then a change.
That is what we need to do to them: stay and pressure in the offensive zone, have good changes — especially in the second periods, when it is hard for our defensemen to get a change all the way down the ice. You need to be strong, stay tight, and make sure you get the pucks out when you can.
Suzuki on whether the Habs are surprised by the Leafs‘ defensive play:
We aren’t surprised. Their D can all move well. They have good gaps. They have done a good job through the neutral zone limiting our space to get across the blue line. We knew they had a good D core. I think we can get pucks in behind them better, forecheck better. It is going to be key tonight.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #47 Pierre Engvall– #24 Wayne Simmonds
#97 Joe Thornton – #77 Adam Brooks – #19 Jason Spezza
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Extras/Taxi: Rasmus Sandin, Riley Nash, David Rittich, Denis Malgin, Ben Hutton, Travis Dermott, Martin Marincin
Injured: John Tavares, Nick Foligno
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
#90 Tomas Tatar – #24 Phillip Danault – #11 Brendan Gallagher
#73 Tyler Toffoli – #14 Nick Suzuki – #22 Cole Caufield
#41 Paul Byron – #15 Jesperi Kotkaniemi – #17 Josh Anderson
#40 Joel Armia – #21 Eric Staal – #94 Corey Perry
#44 Joel Edmundson – #26 Jeff Petry
#8 Ben Chiarot – #6 Shea Weber
#77 Brett Kulak – #28 Jon Merrill
#31 Carey Price (starter)
#34 Jake Allen
Extras/Taxi: Cayden Primeau, Michael Frolik, Alexander Romanov, Erik Gustafsson, Xavier Ouellet
Injured/Out: Jonathan Drouin, Jake Evans, Artturi Lehkonen