It seems like an annual tradition at this point that we reach the end of the first month of the NHL season with swaths of the media and fan base questioning the contents of this Maple Leafs team’s character.
The Leafs have been pilloried in media over the last 24 hours for their lack of a response to Brad Marchand injuring Timothy Liljegren in Boston on Thursday night, and today their head coach came out and acknowledged disappointment in the lack of a physical pushback. Tyler Bertuzzi was seen laughing on the bench at Marchand’s exchange with Ryan Reaves, and the top line (on the ice at the time) showed zero pulse. On the next shift with Marchand still on the ice, Keefe didn’t send out Reaves, who never held any Bruin to account for the rest of the game.
With all of that in the background, it is important that the Leafs come out tonight on home ice, play with some passion, and take care of business against the 5-6-0 Sabres, who are playing in the second half of a back-to-back. Start on time, play hard, and win a hockey game.
In terms of lineup notes, Joseph Woll returns to the crease, and Max Lajoie and Simon Benoit have been recalled during Liljegren’s absence (now on LTIR due to a high-ankle sprain), with Jake McCabe not quite ready to return and Conor Timmins still a ways away. Lajoie, who has 70 games of NHL experience but most of it came back in 2018-19 with the Senators, will play on the right side of William Lagesson tonight as John Klingberg moves up onto Mark Giordano’s pairing.
Game time: 7 p.m. / Network: Sportsnet (HNIC)
Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Sabres
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the lack of response to Brad Marchand after the Liljegren injury in Boston:
I hated everything about it. I’ve addressed it.
In the moment, some of the guys don’t quite know what exactly has transpired. Sometimes it is hard to compute.
It is a game day here, and we are preparing for Buffalo. I am not going to get into it too much. It’s not what we want to be about. At times, we have responded very well in those situations in the past. It is about consistency, though.
We’ve addressed it.
Ryan Reaves on the lack of a response to the Marchand-Liljegren incident and whether it was due to the players maybe not seeing it in real-time:
We talked about it. We addressed it in the room. It will be changed moving forward.
[Not knowing what happened] might have been part of it. Still, when he skates by the bench, there could probably be a little more response there. Again, we talked about it. We will respond accordingly.
Reaves on his message to Marchand when they were jawing by the bench:
First of all, get away from the bench. Second of all, I guess he was lucky I wasn’t out on the ice with him. Fortunately, they had last change, so I didn’t get any shifts against him. It’s hockey.
Tyler Bertuzzi on laughing on the bench as Marchand skated by:
People can perceive that however they want. I am not going to explain myself.
Bertuzzi on his demotion down the lineup in Boston:
Just wasn’t good enough. Have to be better. No excuses.
John Tavares on the lack of response to Marchand in Boston and the team’s pledge to be better in those moments:
No doubt, we have a tight group in here. We talked about having a strong brotherhood during instances like that and how we have to stick together… No doubt, we discuss all the areas we want to be better in. That situation is one.
Tavares on coping with a collection of injuries on defense:
We learned a lot last year when we had a lot of guys injured on the backend as well early in the season. It is just about playing a really good, strong team game with everyone supporting one another as a five-man unit.
It [emphasizes] the importance of the team game and the structure within that, allowing us to build confidence and feel connected throughout the group. The game comes easier that way when we are all playing at a high level and playing connected.
Keefe on the keys to surviving multiple injuries on the blue line:
Play better as a team, play harder as a team, and play tighter as a team. We went through this exact thing last season. It ended up kind of galvanizing our group. We had an unbelievable November. May as well do the same thing.
Keefe on Max Lajoie:
He moves pucks well. He has played in the league before. He and Lagesson spent some time together with the Marlies and a lot of time together throughout camp.
He and Lagesson both are guys who have played in the league before. That is positive. Lagesson has done a really good job for us coming in. We expect the same from Lajoie.
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 – #3 John Klingberg
#85 William Lagesson – #48 Max Lajoie
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#35 Ilya Samsonov
Extra: Simon Benoit
Injured: Conor Timmins, Jake McCabe, Timothy Liljegren
Buffalo Sabres Projected Lines
#12 Jordan Greenway – #72 Tage Thompson – #89 Alex Tuch
#53 Jeff Skinner – #37 Casey Mittelstadt – #77 John Jason Peterka
#13 Luke Rousek – #24 Dylan Cozens – Brandon Biro
#28 Zemgus Girgensons – #19 Peyton Krebs – #21 Kyle Okposo
#26 Rasmus Dahlin – #10 Henri Jokiharju
#25 Owen Power – #75 Connor Clifton
#78 Jacob Bryson – #6 Erik Johnson
Starter: #27 Devon Levi
#1 Ukko-Pekka Luukonen
Out: Jack Quinn, Eric Comrie, Zach Benson, Matthew Savoie, Mattias Samuelsson