Ilya Samsonov returns to the net as the Maple Leafs open their four-game season series against the Bruins at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. EST, Sportsnet Ontario).
Tonight, Boston is without their top pairing and three of their top six on defense — Charlie McAvoy due to suspension, and Derek Forbort and Matt Grzelcyk due to injury — as a trio of AHL call-ups (Mason Lohrei, Parker Wotherspoon, and Ian Mitchell) will plug into the blue line.
Of course, the goaltending, veteran leadership, high-expectations/no-excuses culture, and structure of the Bruins make the challenge no less significant, especially at the TD Garden where they’re a ridiculous 38-4-4 (.870 points percentage) since the start of last season.
The Leafs have not spent their customary amount of time possessing the puck in the offensive zone so far this season compared to seasons past under Sheldon Keefe, currently hovering below 50% in goals, shot attempts, expected goals, and scoring chances at five-on-five.
No small part of that is the team’s top-line duo, which usually dominates possession and five-on-five goal share but is so far hovering around breakeven at five-on-five (127 shot attempts for / 123 against, four goals for / five against), with Auston Matthews calling his line with Mitch Marner “too one and done.” Against an undermanned, less experienced version of the Boston blue line, it would be a good time to reverse that early-season trend as Keefe continues to stick by this pairing.
For the Leafs, their flattest performance of the season vs. LA on Tuesday is going to need to be followed up by one of their best of the year in response. Keefe is expected to make a total of zero lineup changes outside of Samsonov starting instead of Joseph Woll in net.
Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Bruins
Game Day Quotes
Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery on the challenge against the Leafs:
Toronto is a great transitional team. A little similar to us. They have some injuries on the back end. The team that can possess the puck more in the offensive zone is going to be the team that has a little bit of a leg up on the other team.
Sheldon Keefe on the significance of tonight’s matchup:
We want to get a response for sure because of how we played the other night but really it is about the fact that we are playing a divisional team and a good opponent. We are going into a segment of the schedule here where we have a bunch of divisional teams coming. We know we will be challenged. I expect we will be ready for that.
Keefe on his confidence in the group’s ability to respond after a tough loss:
I have really liked that about our group. That has been a bit of a trademark of our team, quite frankly. We have responded very well when our backs are against the wall. We have played well against this team in this building. Doesn’t make it any easier to get a positive result, but I am confident in our group’s ability to respond.
I think the opponent will bring out the best in us.
Keefe on how the Bruins have been able to remain so consistent despite some significant changes over the offseason:
The biggest thing I have seen is that they have a great foundation. Their defense has stayed intact. I know they have some changes for tonight’s game, but through the season, their defense has been intact from last season and their goaltending has been the best in the league.
They have elite forwards who have done a really good job for them, and they have a really good team structure and culture. They have been a very good team for over a decade now. There are some common denominators that have stuck with them throughout that time. They have set a high standard and maintained that.
Keefe on giving the nod to Ilya Samsonov in net tonight:
I just like that he is battling. It did feel like he took a good step in Nashville with the game that he played there.
He needs to play. We need to have both guys thriving. Woll, of course, has played very well for us, but we also need to make sure we are giving Sammy an opportunity to continue to grow his game.
Keefe on the areas for improvement heading into the 10th game of the season:
I don’t know if I can pinpoint one area. There are a number of things we can do better. Our special teams have been a bit lopsided. Our power play has had success but our penalty killing has not been good enough. That is an area of focus on the special teams side of it.
Another trademark of our team in years past has been significant time spent in the offensive zone. As a result, it is usually less time spent in the defensive zone. That is another area for me that we have talked a lot about: ways to go about that, do it better and have all four lines be able to accomplish it.
Tyler Bertuzzi on dealing with Brad Marchand’s chirps now that he’s friends with him from his stint in Boston:
Yeah, I know he is just full of shit now. He is probably going to try to do something tonight, but it is all in fun.
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: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#60 Joseph Woll
Injured: Conor Timmins, Jake McCabe
Boston Bruins Projected Lines
#18 Pavel Zacha – #51 Matthew Poitras – #88 David Pastrnak
#63 Brad Marchand – #13 Charlie Coyle – #74 Jake DeBrusk
#21 James van Riemsdyk – #39 Morgan Geeke – #11 Trent Frederic
#19 John Beecher – #38 Patrick Brown – #62 Oskar Steen
#27 Hampus Lindholm – #22 Kevin Shattenkirk
#6 Mason Lohrei – #25 Brandon Carlo
#29 Parker Wotherspoon – #14 Ian Mitchell
Starter: #1 Jeremy Swayman
#35 Linus Ullmark
Injured: Milan Lucic, Derek Forbort, Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Lauko
Suspended: Charlie McAvoy