Coming off of what Auston Matthews described as an “ugly” 2-1 shootout win over Florida, Joseph Woll and the Maple Leafs are looking to gain some momentum on home ice as they welcome the struggling Seattle Kraken to Scotiabank Arena (7:00 p.m. EST, TSN4). 

The Kraken (8-10-5) play with similar pace, energy, and structure over four lines but continue to battle goaltending issues and have seen their elevated five-on-five shooting percentage from last season come crashing back down to earth. They’re currently scoring on 7.8% of their shots at five-on-five (25th), down from their league-leading 10.3% last season.

Individually, Jared McCann shot a ridiculous 21.6% last season while scoring 30 goals at five-on-five, fourth in the NHL behind only David Pastrnak, Connor McDavid, and Mikko Rantanen. That’s cooled off significantly to a (still high) 14.6% so far this season.

Matty Beniers went from shooting 15.6% in his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season to 3.2% so far in 2023-24 while scoring just one goal through 23 games at five-on-five.

Jordan Eberle went from shooting nearly 11% with 16 goals at five-on-five last season to just over 5% with two five-on-five goals through 20 games.

Still, Seattle generally controls the run of shot attempts, shots, and scoring chances at five-on-five. The Leafs are below breakeven and shading toward the bottom half of the league in all those categories. They are now icing a ragtag group of defensemen behind the Morgan Rielly-TJ Brodie pairing due to injuries to Mark Giordano (broken finger, week-to-week), John Klingberg (hip, timeline unknown) and Timothy Liljegren (high ankle sprain, a few weeks away).

It accentuates the urgency to play a more connected five-man game with and without the puck, including on the breakout, where the Leafs weren’t efficient enough coming out of their end against Florida’s forecheck on Tuesday, stalling their offense and leaving them on their own half of the ice for too much of the first half of the game.

As the Leafs patiently wait for the end of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner’s offensive slumps, Sheldon Keefe is expected to stick with the top-six duos of Matthews – William Nylander and John Tavares – Marner while making one change down the forward lineup: Bobby McMann returns for his first game since the win over Minnesota in Sweden, taking Ryan Reaves’ spot on the fourth line.

William Lagesson will take the injured Giordano’s place on the blue line next to Jake McCabe, while Joseph Woll will start his third consecutive in goal coming off of one of the team’s best goaltending performances of the season in the 2-1 shootout win over the Panthers (eight saves on nine high-danger chances, 38 saves overall).

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge presented by the Kraken:

They are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Their goaltending hasn’t held up for them, but they have done a really good job of limiting chances against. They are very structured. They play hard. They play quickly. The puck hasn’t gone in the net for them to the same degree as last year, but if you watch them play, they look very similar.

It is one of the strange things when you look at it. All six defensemen have played every single game. They have familiarity on all of the pairs. With the forwards, from lines one to four, there is not a lot of change. There is speed, skill, and different elements on each line.

You know what you are expecting. We are going to have to find our way through their structure to get to their net.

Keefe on the decision to go back to Joe Woll for the third straight game:

He just looks confident and comfortable in the net. He hasn’t had a dip in either of these two games. It is two good ones in a row. You are starting to get into a bit of a rhythm now in terms of our schedule, which we haven’t had for quite a while now. It just sort of makes that decision somewhat easy.

Max Domi on playing through a finger injury:

Still attached to my body, so we are doing alright.

Morgan Rielly on the challenge of another injury on the blue line:

Our group has had injuries already this year, and we have managed to be okay. It is going to take guys stepping up and accepting more responsibility. It is ultimately a group effort.

We are all comfortable playing with each other. We work on that stuff during practice, mixing up pairs and whatnot. The expectation is that there are not going to be any issues with guys playing their offsides or anything like that. We will be prepared.

Auston Matthews on supporting a banged-up blue line:

It is on us (forwards) to help out more, communicate, and be in good spots. It is not just on the D when we are out there. It is on all five guys on the ice. Everybody has to dial it in a little bit more and just be more conscious of where each other is on the ice so we can make their lives easier, which makes our lives easier.

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Kraken

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#23 Matthew Knies – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#89 Nick Robertson – #11 Max Domi – #19 Calle Jarnkrok
#74 Bobby McMann – #64 David Kampf – #18 Noah Gregor

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#85 William Lagesson – #22 Jake McCabe
#2 Simon Benoit – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#35 Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: Max Lajoie, Ryan Reaves
Injured: Mark Giordano, John Klingberg, Timothy Liljegren

Seattle Kraken Projected Lines

#19 Jared McCann – #10 Matthew Beniers – #7 Jordan Eberle
#20 Eeli Tolvanen – #37 Yanni Gourde – #22 Oliver Bjorkstrand
#52 Tye Kartye – #21 Alex Wennberg – #12 Andrew Poturalski
#43 Marian Studenic – #41 Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare – #56 Kailer Yamamoto

#29 Vince Dunn – #6 Adam Larsson
#24 Jamie Oleksiak – #3 William Borgen
#8 Brian Dumoulin – #4 Justin Schultz

Starter: #31 Philipp Grubauer
#35 Joey Daccord

Injured/Out: Andre Burakovsky, Brandon Tanev, Jaden Schwartz