John Tavares moves to Ryan O’Reilly’s wing, Calle Jarnkrok sits out with a minor injury, Erik Gustafsson joins a pairing with Luke Schenn, and Morgan Rielly & TJ Brodie take a night’s rest on the blue line entering the final Leafs vs. Habs game of the 2022-23 season (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet/CBC).
With Matt Murray and Calle Jarnkrok’s injuries and all of the roster/lineup maneuvering leaving the Leafs too short on cap space to call up Joseph Woll, UofT goaltender Jett Alexander will serve as the emergency backup for the team tonight behind starter Ilya Samsonov.
Head to Head: Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs
In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Canadiens in four out of five offensive categories and five out of five defensive categories.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on moving Ryan O’Reilly up to 2C and John Tavares to his wing:
With Jarnkrok being unavailable today, that changes the mix a little bit there for sure. I started to use O’Reilly with Tavares and Marner in the third period there in Boston. I wanted to get more reps with John on the wing there.
We haven’t seen Will in that spot with them. I think this is an opportunity to do that. At the same time, you get the familiarity of Marner and Bunting with Matthews while keeping everything else intact — or certainly, the Kampf line intact. Simmonds comes in, and you keep Kerfoot and Acciari as a pair.
There is some continuity and familiarity there that I like while still getting a look at Will and O’Reilly.
Keefe on moving O’Reilly into the bumper spot of the top unit on the power play while moving William Nylander onto the second unit tonight:
Jarnkrok had been kind of running things on that second unit, so you lose him there. It is a chance for Will to go into that spot and really kind of be in charge, have the puck a ton, and everything is driving through him.
At this same time, you get a look at O’Reilly in a spot where he has had a lot of success in his career. He was on one of the league’s best power plays in St. Louis. We get some looks with that. With O’Reilly’s injury, it is something we haven’t been able to see.
With the Jarnkrok absence, in particular, to me, there had to be something to help. I think this satisfies a lot of different things for us. It gets Will to really drive his own group. It gets O’Reilly a look with those guys in the bumper spot.
Keefe on the balance of keeping everyone healthy vs. staying sharp ahead of the playoffs:
It is a challenge, but what it allows us to do is really focus on what matters to us, which is our habits, details, and our structure — all of those things that are so important when it matters the most.
That is really where I want our focus to be. You always want to focus on the process and the details more than the results, but you focus on the results even less at this point.
You would certainly want to have all of your details right. If it doesn’t work out because it is not your night, it is less of a big deal when there is no more movement within our division.
The focus has been on our details and structure for quite some time now. That is really more of a singular focus now. Our team is good enough that when all of that is right, we’ll often get the results, too, so we are still playing to win.
Keefe on the team’s defensive play with the playoffs near:
In our last six or seven games, defensively, we have been really strong. I think our guys have done a really nice job of that. It certainly makes us feel good.
It has been a focus for us, getting that right. The offensive piece — we have to get scoring more goals, both on power play and at five-on-five. But we are in every game.
It was a tough game in Boston and not a lot there for either team, but to go on the road into a building like that and give up as little as we did, you feel good about it. Either team could’ve said they deserve to win the game because it is that good or tight. Another goal or a bounce here or there, and you’re on the right side of it.
We have played good hockey defensively. We have controlled play for a good chunk of time now. I think the group is feeling good. In terms of results, we have been on the wrong side of some games and it hasn’t been as consistent winning for us, but the process has been really good.
Wayne Simmonds on whether the team’s style of play has changed over past playoffs:
Definitely. I think we have become a team that is harder to play against. Bringing [O’Reilly], [Acciari], and [Lafferty], those are three guys who play the game hard and finish every check. They’ll battle. They are not going to back down from anybody. Additions like that make your team harder to play against going into the playoffs.
Martin St. Louis on whether the Habs could’ve been in the playoff mix with better health given the team’s structure and work habits:
Would we be closer? I think so. How close? I don’t know. Did it steer us away a little bit from what the task is this year? Maybe.
I believe things happen for a reason. We just keep moving forward.
St. Louis on how different the Leafs as a team look after their deadline additions:
They have depth, but the horses are still the same. They can hurt you in so many ways. In that sense, I wouldn’t say they look different, but there are just more layers.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#91 John Tavares – #90 Ryan O’Reilly – #88 William Nylander
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #52 Noel Acciari – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #64 David Kämpf – #28 Sam Lafferty
#22 Jake McCabe – #3 Justin Holl
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#56 Erik Gustafsson – #2 Luke Schenn
Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
Extras: Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Conor Timmins
Injured: Calle Järnkrok, Matt Murray, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
#49 Rafel Harvey-Pinard – #14 Nick Suzuki – #40 Joel Armia
#25 Denis Gurianov – #27 Jonathan Drouin – #11 Brendan Gallagher
#32 Rem Pitlick – #71 Jake Evans – #68 Mike Hoffman
#55 Michael Pezzetta – #67 Chris Tierney – #56 Jesse Ylonen
#8 Michael Matheson – #52 Justin Barron
#64 Corey Schueneman – #26 Johnathan Kovacevic
#44 Joel Edmundson – #6 Chris Wideman
Starter: #55 Samuel Montembeault
#30 Cayden Primeau
Injured/Out: Carey Price, Paul Byron, Joey Anderson, Sean Monahan, Kaiden Guhle, Jake Evans, Juraj Slafkovsky, Arber Xhekaj, Kirby Dach, Cole Caufield, Jordan Harris, Christian Dvorak