We need no reminder of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent history (recent as in just the last year and a half) in these “it’d sure be embarrassing if they lost!” games, but I guess we’ll do it briefly anyway because game previews require us to write words in them:

  • The David Ayres game (which was flaunted by the Canes organization as a lovely cherry-on-top of the Leafs‘ shit sundae on Monday)
  • The time when the Leafs led 3-0 in Game 3 vs. CBJ with a chance to take a stranglehold over the series, lost 4-3 in OT, and nearly lost the series in four after a horrible Game 4 performance in which they staged a miraculous 3-0 comeback at the end, only to get shut out in a series-deciding Game 5
  • The time when the Leafs were leading 5-1 against Ottawa at home and lost 6-5 in overtime
  • The time when the Leafs went into Vancouver as the Canucks were returning from a Covid outbreak that ravaged the team for over three weeks and lost both games
  • The time when the Leafs led 3-1 in the series against the Habs and somehow lost three in a row including another shutout loss (basically) in a series-deciding game
  • Literally four days ago when the Leafs lost 7-1 to the Wilkes-Barre Penguins

Losing to the 0-6 Blackhawks tonight at a time when they have never led for a second of any game this season, key players (including Kane and Toews) are in Covid protocol, their head coach is routinely booed out of the building by the Chicago faithful, and their entire organization is in total disgrace and disarray — including the resignation of GM Stan Bowman — due to a stunning level of negligence towards the safety and wellbeing of a sexual assault victim in their employ during their 2010 Cup run, would slide rather naturally onto this list.

The reality is that the Leafs will have nobody convinced of anything if they do simply take care of business tonight against a reeling opponent. There isn’t much goodwill left here, and it’s not getting restored unless the fans see a playoff series win, if not multiple. But they can, at a minimum, go out there and not totally embarrass themselves and their entire fan base.

That’s a low bar, but let’s hope the Leafs clear it tonight.

(Puck drop is 7:30 p.m, catch the game on Sportsnet One)

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the team’s level of urgency:

The urgency is high. The guys recognize what is going on here — not just in the seven games of the season but just on this road trip. You come out on the road and you want to be good on the road and win games. We have been unable to do that. This is the end of the trip, so we want to go home on a positive.

Keefe on the message to Mitch Marner amid his slump:

You have to talk to him, reassure him of the good things he is doing, and give him opportunities to succeed in terms of his ice time and the situations you are putting him in.

The focus of any of the talks with players who are looking to break out here is just bringing it back to the team, relying on our structure, and playing together as a group. Opportunities come from there. The players are just too good not to produce over time.

That’s really it: don’t put too much pressure on yourself, recognize your role and responsibility in each area of the ice, and do your job for the team. Whether it is Mitch or any of our other guys, they are just too good to not break out. That is the focus.

Keefe on what he is expecting from the Blackhawks amid their turmoil:

The focus is 100% on us. We have enough things happening with our own team that we have to have the focus on us. Look no further than the start of this trip in Pittsburgh. It is very clear that any team in the league, regardless of who is in and who is out, is capable of beating you if your own game is not in order. That is where our focus will lie.

Alex Debrincat on the difficulty of focusing on the game for the Blackhawks players:

It was tough to read. It is tough to hear the story. At the end of the day, once the puck drops, it is our job. We have to figure out a way to come out strong and win a hockey game. We can revisit or come back to it after the game. Once the puck drops, it is game time.

Jeremy Colliton on the resignation of GM Stan Bowman:

Stan is the one who gave me the chance to come to Rockford and then here in Chicago. He has been a great mentor for me and someone to learn from. I feel bad for him, obviously.

What is in the report — it’s tough to read. As an organization, we don’t stand for that. I can say that the Stan I know and have been dealing with — those aren’t his values. It is hard to separate the two.

Personally, I just think you feel for him while also understanding that in hockey culture, we have to make sure we are doing the right thing and the values we are coming to work with every day are the right ones.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#47 Pierre Engvall – #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#20 Nick Ritchie – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #23 Travis Dermott

Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#30 Michael Hutchinson

Extras: Michael Amadio, Timothy Liljegren
: Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek

Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lines

  • “As far as the lineup goes, in the situation we are in, it is premature to announce one,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton. “We will see how it looks tonight.”