Following a confidence-building 5-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs will finish off their four-game homestand against the 5-5-1 Los Angeles Kings, who have won four consecutive games (7:30 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
Like the Leafs, the Kings won their first game of the season before going through a rough patch. They bested the then-healthy Vegas Golden Knights 6-2 in their home opener before suffering through a six-game winless slump (0-5-1) while only scoring 10 goals in the process.
Since then, like Toronto, Los Angeles has gone on a bit of a tear. They’ve won their last four — compared to five straight for the Leafs — although they have won their last two in extra time (the first in a shootout against St. Louis, the second an overtime win over the Devils).
Isolating those four games, the Kings have actually fallen behind in shot and chance generation relative to their season pace. They’ve kept up in overall shot attempts at five-on-five, sitting at just under 52%, but have been out-chanced more severely, mustering just 44.5% of xGoals in those games. Those numbers were much better in L.A’s first seven games of the year, where they owned 53% of shot-attempts and 52.5% of xGoals.
The Kings managed to score 13 times at five-on-five during their winning streak — led by Anze Kopitar, Alex Iaffalo, and Arthur Kaliyev — but have only scored once on 10 opportunities on the man advantage. That recent scoring dominance at five-on-five might not be sustainable given their trending underlying expected Goal generation rates, so they’ll need to become more efficient on the man advantage in short order.
A Covid-protocol related absence for Victor Arvidsson will make things tougher in that regard, despite him not yet earning a point on the power play this season. Rookie Quinton Byfield is still week-to-week with his injury suffered in training camp while two regular defensemen, Drew Doughty and Sean Walker, are still absent with long-term knee injuries.
In goal, Jonathan Quick will start for L.A tonight. Mired in mediocre results since 2018, the long-time Kings starter has had a better start to his 2021-22 season. He has gone 2-3-1 with a .915 save percentage after finishing below .905% in each of his last three seasons.
In the Leafs‘ net, Petr Mrazek’s rotten injury luck has continued — he was placed on IR yesterday and is expected to miss a month. It isn’t clear who the Leafs‘ backup will be for that stretch, or how much the individual(s) will play, but it will be 23-year-old Joseph Woll acting as backup tonight. The Leafs do have a back-to-back coming up this weekend which will bring a backup start into play.
Michael Hutchinson started for the Marlies on Saturday, which may be why it was Woll earning the callup instead. It may be that Woll is simply getting some practice time up with the NHL club before Hutchinson arrives later in the week. I suppose it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that 25-year-old Erik Kallgren, who stole the show in a Marlies win on Friday and has plenty of professional experience under his belt in the SHL, could be a wildcard option for some backup time as well.
In net tonight, the red-hot Jack Campbell will face off against his former squad for the first time since the February 2020 trade that brought him to Toronto.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on where the team’s focus lies after a good performance against Boston:
We’re really just focused on the fact that our team’s been playing good hockey and we want to keep that moving by focusing in on the things that we’ve been doing well as a team. Our details and our structure defensively have improved, our execution on special teams — those kinds of things. We’re bringing those to the forefront — “When we’re at our best, this is what it looks like.” We’re talking about that a lot.
Keefe on preparing to face the Kings:
As these new opponents come, you’ve got to give information to your team about what to expect and what the game should look and feel like, so we look at the opponent that way and get to know them.
This is an L.A team that, just like us, has been on a streak here. They’re feeling good about themselves — they’re a very good team at five-on-five, and thus you have to play a patient game expecting that it’s going to be difficult to get through the neutral zone and difficult to get access to their goaltender. We’re going to have to be patient and, at the same time, earn our opportunities offensively and win the special teams battle.
Keefe on matching up against Phillip Danault:
Good instincts, good stick, knows who he is and what his job is on the ice, and doesn’t deviate from that very much. That’s a big part of it — the defensive players that focus on those things can make it difficult on you.
You see a lot of them on defensive faceoffs and things like that. Naturally, when you’ve got a player like that, he’s going to see a lot of the other team’s best offensive players — you’ve got to play through that. With [Danault] and Kopitar, that’s a tough duo they’ve put together there, and I think they’re seeing some of the benefits.
Kings head coach Todd McLellan on Andreas Anthansiou’s return from injury last game:
Tough situation for him to come into. He missed the last game of last season, didn’t get to skate [with his teammates] a lot in the summer for whatever reason, and in his first actual team skate at training camp, he breaks his finger. He’s coming from behind. He’s trying to play catchup, and that’s a tough thing to do.
That said, if anyone can do it, it’s him. He’s got a good engine, great legs, and he’s got a skill game that should come back fairly quick. I spent some time with him today and talked about it. He said it was happening fast but felt better as the game went on. I think we’ll get that answer from him after a few more games, and then he should be up and running.
McLellan on the Maple Leafs’ strengths:
Well, they do a lot of things well. Their transition game obviously is as good as anybody in the game. When you’re careless with the puck, it’s going up and it’s going up fast. They have creative players. They have creative players with skill, and they have finishers. They’ve got a good mix of offensive weapons up front. They can make you pay, and that’s a big part of it.
Their power play is clicking a little bit now. I think when your top players have confidence — which I’m sure theirs do — it creates a handful for the opposition.
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 – #23 Travis Dermott
#8 Jake Muzzin – #78 TJ Brodie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#60 Joseph Woll
Extras: Justin Holl, Joey Anderson, Kirill Semyonov
Injured: Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek
Los Angeles Kings Projected Lines
#9 Adrian Kempe – #11 Anze Kopitar – #23 Dustin Brown
#19 Alex Iaffallo – #24 Phillip Danault – #22 Andreas Athanasiou
#38 Carl Grundstrom – #89 Rasmus Kupari – #12 Trevor Moore
#48 Brendan Lemieux – #46 Blake Lizotte – #34 Arthur Kaliyev
#2 Alexander Edler – #58 Kale Clague
#6 Olli Maatta – #3 Matt Roy
#33 Tobias Bjornfot – #44 Mikey Anderson
Starter: #32 Jonathan Quick
#40 Cal Petersen
Injured: Quinton Byfield, Drew Doughty, Sean Walker, Viktor Arvidsson, Gabriel Vilardi