The Maple Leafs are looking to bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the season by continuing their recent dominance of the Red Wings, who are playing the second half of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
The Leafs are currently on a run of eight straight regulation wins over the Red Wings dating back to October of 2019. They haven’t lost a game to Detroit in nearly four years, and they haven’t lost to them in regulation in over five. During this eight-game streak, the Leafs have scored 44 goals or 5.5 per game. There isn’t a more dominant run of success by one NHL team over another over the past four years.
Additionally, the Red Wings are entering something of a “schedule loss” situation tonight given they’re playing the second half of a back-to-back and their third in four nights. They’re also slumping of late with losses in three of their last four, with 14 goals conceded over those three losses.
Goaltender Magnus Hellberg — who has just 10 games of NHL experience spanning stops in New York, Ottawa, and Detroit — is expected to start in the Red Wings’ net in the back-to-back. In his second game of the season after yet another long-term injury absence, Robby Fabbri scored in last night’s 3-2 loss to Florida, but he is expected to rest tonight. Tyler Bertuzzi remains out as he recovers from hand surgery.
Through 39 games, Thursday’s 5-1 loss to Seattle was just the third game in which the Leafs lost by three or more goals — the other two were a 5-2 loss to Washington and a 6-3 loss to Arizona, and the latter game included two empty-netters. It’s been a very rare occasion for the Leafs to be truly out of a game in the first half of the season, although it’s worth noting that all three of those above-mentioned losses have come in their last eight games.
The Leafs should be hungry to respond, and they should have the rest advantage entering this game, in addition to the mental edge of consistently dominating this opponent. All of that said, this is the NHL, and looking past any opponent is a recipe for disaster.
In net, Sheldon Keefe will turn to Ilya Samsonov, who needs to get his season back on track after four consecutive games below a .900 save percentage (.850 average, 2-1-1). Otherwise, the Leafs’ lineup remains unchanged from Thursday.
“Any time you come off of a loss like that, you want to give the group another opportunity to go,” said Keefe after the morning skate.
Head to Head: Red Wings vs. Leafs
In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Red Wings in four out of five offensive categories and five out of five defensive categories.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the team’s Indigenous Celebration Game jerseys:
They’re sharp. It is an important day in terms of awareness and recognizing our need to reconcile the situation.
We were very fortunate to have Chief Laforme from [Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation] speak to our group this morning just to make that connection about the importance of an organization such as ours to take a lead and set an example as well as educate ourselves about the importance of reconciliation.
The whole night — and the awareness of it across the league — is a very important and overdue endeavour.
The Leaf: Blueprint Moment pic.twitter.com/EbZTPfj93w
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 7, 2023
Keefe on the team’s recent defensive play:
The one thing I haven’t liked in terms of our defensive play: We have given up a little bit more of the big chance, whether it is a breakaway or two-on-one.
I still think we have played really good hockey over the course of the 60 minutes. If you step back from it and look at the number of chances we have given up and how we have carried play, I don’t think we have slipped too much in that regard. I just think we have given up really good looks at bad times. That costs you.
That is the area where we have to remain consistent and keep that dialed in. I don’t think our game has slipped entirely in many ways. It is just that one piece… We have to eliminate the big chance against.
We have to get saves inside of that, of course, but there is a job to do to prevent them from getting that look.
Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde on the team’s special-teams struggles in their recent losses (four power-play goals against on their last five penalty kills):
Frustrating reality. We didn’t execute on special teams. That is part of the game. Give the guys some credit. Our five-on-five play is good — unfortunately, really good [vs. Florida] without a whole lot to show for it.
Our five-on-five play has been fairly consistent, and our special teams have been up and down. We will keep working on it and hope for an up soon.
Lalonde on his team’s penalty-killing struggles:
It is going in. I don’t mean that sarcastically. It is reality. It is not a seam-pass, backdoor breakdown. [Versus Florida] there was a zone entry, and he picks the puck out of the air to beat two guys. We didn’t finish our routes great, and they sift the puck on net for an easy rebound.
From my experience, it is frustrating because it keeps going in, but it is not a ton of chances against. It is not broken. You know it when your penalty kill is getting seamed and there are breakdowns or there are ridiculous, egregious A-type slot chances. That is not the case.
Unfortunately, it is going in.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#19 Calle Järnkrok – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #20 Dryden Hunt
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#30 Matt Murray
Extras: Conor Timmins, Jordie Benn, Wayne Simmonds
Injured: Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete
Detroit Red Wings Projected Lines
#27 Michael Rasmussen – #71 Dylan Larkin – #57 David Perron
#52 Jonatan Berggren – #18 Andrew Copp – #23 Lucas Raymond
#85 Elmer Soderblom – #90 Joe Veleno – #81 Dominik Kulabik
#73 Adam Erne – #24 Pius Suter – #70 Oskar Sundqvist
#96 Jake Walman – #53 Moritz Seider
#8 Ben Chiarot – #17 Filip Hronek
#2 Olli Maatta – #28 Gustav Lindstrom
Starter: #45 Magnus Hellberg (unconfirmed)
#35 Ville Husso
Injured/Out: Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Mark Pysyk, Tyler Bertuzzi, Matt Luff