The Maple Leafs are looking to continue their dominance against the Red Wings and in back-to-back situations when they visit Detroit for the third game of the season series (7 p.m. EST, TSN4).
As mentioned when these two Original Six rivals squared off last Thursday (a 4-1 home win for the Leafs), there isn’t a more dominant run of success by one NHL team over another over the past four years.
The Leafs are currently on a run of nine 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 nine-game streak, the Leafs have scored a ridiculous 48 goals (or 5.33 per game) and outscored the Red Wings 48-21.
The challenge this time around will be different than a week ago; it is the Leafs that are on the road in the second half of a back-to-back as opposed to the rested Red Wings, who will also have Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri back in their lineup in addition to starting goalie Ville Husso (not that backup Magnus Hellberg didn’t play well last Thursday).
The Leafs will also be icing a different lineup from the last meeting. TJ Brodie will remain out, and Auston Matthews is considered a game-time decision. At the morning skate, Dryden Hunt and Conor Timmins stayed out on the ice for extra work, which suggests both could sit out in the second half of the back-to-back, although nothing will be final or confirmed until closer to puck drop.
The Leafs may opt to get veteran defenseman Jordie Benn into game action tonight given he hasn’t played since December 27 against St. Louis. As for Hunt’s spot in the lineup, depending on Auston Matthews’ status, there is also the option to mix in Wayne Simmonds, keep Bobby McMann in the lineup, or maybe include both if Matthews misses out. Again, we’ll need to wait until game time for the final word.
Matthews’ possible absence presents a potential decision for Sheldon Keefe as to whether he returns to William Nylander down the middle or if he starts Alex Kerfoot there (in between Nylander and Michael Bunting), which is how he ended the game in last night’s win over Nashville.
Toronto is on a fantastic run of success in tired situations, collecting points in all six games played in the second half of a back-to-back and winning five of them (3-0-1 on the road).
Head to Head: Red Wings vs. Maple 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 areas for improvement coming off of last night’s 2-1 win vs. Nashville:
The power play is one we want to clean up. We talked about it. It scored us a huge goal and it is a difference maker in the game, which is ultimately what you want: for your group to step up in big moments. But the process wasn’t nearly good enough.
Whether Auston is in or not, the group needs to find its way through that in terms of their process, structure, and detail. That would be one area.
Other than that, we did good things. We got real strong goaltending that gave the group confidence and allowed us to find our way through a really tight game where the opposition goalie wasn’t giving us much.
It is a different challenge tonight. You come in and you have do it again in dificult circumstances in terms of the back-to-back and all of those kinds of things. We have handled that well all season long. I expect tonight to be no different.
This Detroit team has played us hard. We are going to have to be ready from the start.
Keefe on his team’s 5-0-1 record in the second half of back-to-backs this season:
The only thing that I would point to is that our team game has been really solid. When you talk about injuries that we have dealt with, the way to describe that is adversity or difficult circumstance. I think back-to-back is something similar.
The other part of it is that we don’t talk too much about it. It is a hockey game, you know? Let’s not make more out of it than there needs to be. Let’s not tell ourselves a bad story that we can’t compete. Let’s tell ourselves the opposite: We have an opportunity to come in and grind out two good points and feel great about ourselves when we leave.
That is really what it has been about for us: that mindset, and the fact that we have a good, sound team game that gives us a chance to win each night. It is going to have to be the case tonight for sure.
Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde on giving up five goals (four at even strength) in a 7-5 win over Winnipeg on Tuesday:
The Toronto back-to-back is sneaky in that you play Friday night, you have to go through customs, and you don’t get to Toronto until 2:30 at the hotel. We played them, and we got stuck on this side at customs. We didn’t get back to Detroit until 2:30 in the morning.
That is an excuse. Everyone goes through it. There are a lot of reasons that went into us not performing great with our five-on-five play. As a coach, you look at everything, but the bottom line is that we didn’t get a very good performance. We didn’t execute very well.
Some nights, it feels like things weren’t going your way or you weren’t playing well, and when you watch the tape back over, you weren’t that bad. That was not the case in this one. Watching the tape back over this morning was just as uncomfortable as it felt.
With that said, we scored some hard-area goals. We will never apologize for two points in this league with how hard it is — especially against a really good team that was on a five-game winning streak.
Lalonde on his team’s two losses against the Leafs so far this season:
Our five-on-five over six periods against them has been pretty good. Unfortunately, we have given up offense on special teams to them and their top guys have finished.
We still need to check them the same way. In two games, despite having a decent five-on-five, we have only scored two goals.
It is going to be a challenge for us on any given night. Be harder on the goalie and keep it out of our net.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#19 Calle Järnkrok – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#58 Michael Bunting – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #88 William Nylander
#74 Bobby McMann – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #18 Jordie Benn
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#30 Matt Murray
Extras: Dryden Hunt, Conor Timmins
Injured/Out: Auston Matthews, TJ Brodie, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete
Detroit Red Wings Projected Lines
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #71 Dylan Larkin – #23 Lucas Raymond
#14 Robby Fabbri – #90 Joe Veleno – #57 David Perron
#73 Adam Erne – #18 Andrew Copp – #52 Jonatan Berggren
#81 Dominik Kulabik – #27 Michael Rasmussen – #70 Oskar Sundqvist
#96 Jake Walman – #53 Moritz Seider
#8 Ben Chiarot – #17 Filip Hronek
#2 Olli Maatta – #82 Jordan Oesterle
Starter: #35 Ville Husso
#45 Magnus Hellberg
Extras: Pius Suter, Gustav Lindstrom
Injured/Out: Filip Zadina, Mark Pysyk, Matt Luff