Tonight, the Maple Leafs are looking to take advantage of a last-placed Anaheim Ducks team that has only one regulation win this season and will be playing tired in the second half of a back-to-back (7 p.m. EST, TSN4).
Payback for the surrendered two-goal lead leading to the loss to the Ducks in California back on October 30 should be top of mind for a Leafs team that has come an impressively long way in terms of both its offensive and defensive play since that defeat.
The Leafs are in the midst of a streak of 14 games with at least a point, including 10 wins, and have played their way into the President’s Trophy mix, while the Anaheim Ducks have gone 3-10-2 since their overtime win over Toronto.
Remarkably, the Ducks have won a total of one game in the 60 minutes of regulation time this season, a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on November 23. Mired in a one-win-in-eight-games stretch after last night’s 3-0 loss in Ottawa, their goal differential is now a league-worst -50.
As far as the Connor Bedard sweepstakes are concerned, the Ducks are playing a strong hand with the following numbers:
- 32nd in the NHL in goals for (2.34/game)
- 32nd in the NHL in goals against (4.17/game)
- 31st in the NHL on the power play (14.5%)
- 32nd in the NHL on the penalty kill (66%)
- 32nd in the NHL in shots against (37.5/game)
- 30th in the NHL in 5v5 shot attempt percentage (44.6%)
- 31st in the NHL in expected goals share (39.7%)
- 25th in the NHL in all-situations save percentage (.889)
By comparison, here are the Leafs‘ numbers through 29 games:
- 13th in the NHL in goals for (3.21/game)
- 3rd in the NHL in goals against (2.41/game)
- 8th in the NHL on the power play (25.3%)
- 12th in the NHL on the penalty kill (79.8%)
- 6th in the NHL in shots against (29.4/game)
- 16th in the NHL in shot attempt percentage (50.3%)
- 8th in the NHL in expected goals share (52.8%)
- 3rd in the NHL in all-situations save percentage (.918)
In terms of lineup changes for the Leafs, Pierre Engvall will return from his one-game suspension and will be back on a line with David Kampf, bumping Joey Anderson onto the fourth line and Wayne Simmonds back to the press box.
Taking the start in net is Ilya Samsonov, who has won his two starts since returning from injury on November 30, stopping 52 of 53 shots in victories over LA and San Jose. He has a chance to complete the home sweep over the California teams tonight.
Head to Head: Leafs vs. Ducks
In the season-to-date statistics, the Maple Leafs hold the advantage over the Ducks in five out of five offensive categories and five out of five defensive categories.
Game Day Quotes
Auston Matthews on not under-estimating the Ducks:
Every team has good players. They have some young skilled guys that are dangerous and can make plays. It doesn’t really matter where teams fall in the standings. Anybody can really beat anybody. Despite where they happen to fall, we have to be ready to play and have our best tonight.
Sheldon Keefe on the keys to success against Anaheim:
You have to be very aware of their top-end skill on both forward and defense. It is going to be on us to manage the game really well.
It was the same situation when we were playing in Anaheim. If you give those guys opportunities, let them feel good, and let them get comfortable, they can make it real hard on you.
They are really skilled — Zegras and Terry, in particular, are extremely dynamic. We are going to have to manage them and manage the game in general.
Keefe on how the team turned it around between now and when they last played Anaheim:
The urgency level coming off of that road trip was there to respond. Since then, a lot has changed because of injuries, whether it is to our goalies or to our defense. We have gone through a lot since then. That in and of itself kind of snaps everything into place and gets everybody’s attention. “If we don’t get to our game really quickly here, things could really get bad.”
There was recognition coming off of that trip, and then recognition of our injury situation that was happening with the group. It is a time that is a little bit of a gut check for everybody to be better. We have built positive momentum that has been hard to stop.
As we have talked about, it is the kind of thing where, when you slip a bit, you have to bring it back and maintain it. I feel like that is where we are at today. There were moments in that Calgary game that were reminiscent of when we weren’t good. We found our way through that. Now we have to get right back to the way we had been playing that has gotten us in a good spot here.
Keefe on the decision to start Ilya Samsonov tonight:
He has played really well. He deserves it, which is the biggest thing. We are going to have both goalies involved. I don’t think you are going to see a situation with us where you are going to see one guy go on any sort of extended run, particularly with the way they have played. They both deserve the net. That allows us to manage the workload.
Both guys we have great confidence in and have given us the ability to win games. With that being the case, we don’t see any need to lean too heavily on any one guy. That is as simple as that. We will take it a day at a time, but we are always looking at the schedule and the way things are.
I think Ilya certainly deserves the opportunity to get back in right away.
Keefe on the decision to insert Pierre Engvall back onto David Kampf’s line and bump Joey Anderson down to the fourth line:
I thought about it for a little bit. I just thought that Engvall has done a pretty good job in that spot. Prior to being suspended, he had a good game. He scored a big power-play goal. Things were trending up for him.
Any time I have played Engvall with Kampf, I have really liked those results. We will stay with that for now and give Anderson, Holmberg, and Aston-Reese a little run here to say how it will go.
Matthews on the differences between playing with Mitch Marner vs. William Nylander:
I don’t think my game changes much. I think you just have to read off of each individual guy and try to know their tendencies, how they like to play without and without the puck, and try to support each other all over the ice. They are both incredible players. It is a lot of fun and pretty easy to play with either guy.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#62 Denis Malgin – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #28 Joey Anderson
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#78 TJ Brodie – #25 Conor Timmins
Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#30 Matt Murray
Extras: Wayne Simmonds
Injured: Nick Robertson, Calle Järnkrok, Jordie Benn, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin
Anaheim Ducks Projected Lines
#19 Troy Terry – #11 Trevor Zegras – #14 Adam Henrique
#44 Maxime Comtois – #16 Ryan Strome – #77 Frank Vatrano
#49 Max Jones – #37 Mason McTavish – #20 Brett Leason
#17 Jayson Megna – #39 Sam Carrick – #33 Jakob Silfverberg
#4 Cam Fowler – #29 Dmitry Kulikov
#13 Simon Benoit – #3 John Klingberg
#5 Urho Vaakanainen – #22 Kevin Shattenkirk
Starter: #36 John Gibson
#1 Lukas Dostal
Injured/Out: Jamie Drysdale, Isac Lundestrom, Derek Grant, Anthony Stolarz