The Maple Leafs (briefly) return home for a meeting against the NHL’s top-scoring team at five-on-five in the early portion of the 2023-24 season (8:00 p.m. EST, TSN4).
The Los Angeles Kings have 11 players with four or more even-strength points so far this season as five-on-five scoring depth has been a major asset for them even as their power play has been mediocre (and their goaltending has been underwhelming). The Leafs, by comparison, have four players with four or more even-strength points through eight games, but their power play is clicking among the best in the league.
As such, this should be a good test of the Leafs‘ depth and their ability to match LA’s pace and energy over 60 minutes as the Kings will roll their lines. Behind Anze Kopitar’s 14:22 of even-strength TOI/game, the Kings’ next eight forwards fall in between 12:29 and 13:33. The Leafs have a much wider even-strength ice-time disparity whereby their top nine forwards range from 10:54 at the bottom end (David Kampf) to over 16 minutes at the top end (Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, with Nylander not far behind them at 15:34).
Early in the season, Todd McLellan’s ability to roll out his lines centered by Kopitar, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Phillip Danault without much stress about matchups has been a major benefit to the Kings on the road, where they are currently 3-0-0 with a whopping 17 goals for and eight against.
In net, the Maple Leafs have a distinct advantage by the early-season, small-sample numbers with Cam Talbot and Pheonix Copley off to wobbly starts and Joseph Woll sporting a .961 save percentage entering tonight’s game. Woll will likely be fully tested, though, by the hot sticks of the Kings and their ability to get pucks and numbers to the net-front area with regularity at five-on-five.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on what’s behind the Kings’ success offensively to start the season:
The depth of their group. They come with lots of speed and pace. It is coming from four lines and their defense is involved a lot, too.
In the early going, they have had a lot of guys who are feeling good offensively.
A lot of speed and a lot of numbers to the net. It is working well for them.
Keefe on the Kings’ depth down the middle (Kopitar – Dubois – Danault):
It gives them a lot of different options. Dubois slid in there. Danault has been used a little bit differently than years past, but it just gives them so many more options and protection on the road.
They haven’t lost on the road yet. I don’t think that is by accident. When you have that depth, those options, and that comfort, it helps a lot as a coach.
It makes them an even deeper forward group than they have been. They have guys who are good on both sides of the puck all the way throughout.
Todd McLellan on the danger of the red-hot Tavares-Nylander duo:
Certainly, Nylander is an incredible talent, but the way they work well together and find each other, there seems to be some connectivity there. There is the smarts from Johnny and the shot and skill from Nylander, and whoever else plays with them seems to get things done.
We will have our hands full there, but also with the other lines.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#19 Calle Jarnkrok – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#23 Matthew Knies – #64 David Kampf – #11 Max Domi
#18 Noah Gregor – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #75 Ryan Reaves
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#85 William Lagesson – #3 John Klingberg
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#35 Ilya Samsonov
Injured: Conor Timmins, Jake McCabe
Los Angeles Kings Projected Lines
#55 Quinton Byfield – #11 Anze Kopitar – #9 Adrian Kempe
#22 Kevin Fiala – #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois – #78 Alex Laferriere
#12 Trevor Moore – #24 Phillip Danault – #34 Arthur Kaliyev
#91 Carl Grundstrom – #46 Blake Lizotte – #61 Trevor Lewis
#44 Mikey Anderson – #8 Drew Doughty
#84 Vladislav Gavrikov – #3 Matt Roy
#5 Andreas Englund – #53 Jordan Spence
Starter: #39 Cam Talbot
#29 Pheonix Copley
Injured: Viktor Arvidsson