The Toronto Maple Leafs as a team have been limping along in net for the last handful of weeks, first losing Freddie Andersen to a groin injury and then following that up with a concussion for backup Garret Sparks.
The team has been surviving with Michael Hutchinson in net, who has been up and down but managed two elite performances in his first four interim starts after getting picked up from Florida. Still, they likely hoped to have Andersen back for their final matchup of the year against the Boston Bruins – and that’s been foiled by a flu report for the Danish starter, leaving Hutch in for hopefully one final start.
The home team has taken home the victory in each of the three matchups between the Atlantic Division rivals this year, which bodes well for the hosting Leafs. But yet another game without their starter is likely far from what the team wanted to deal with right now – especially in a four-point matchup against the Bruins.
GAME DAY NOTES
Toronto record: 28-13-2
Boston record: 25-15-4
Head-to-head record (For Toronto): 1-2-0
Game location: Scotiabank Arena
Start time: 7pm EST
Watch on: CBC, SN1, NESN, NHL Network (US Only)
Both teams are coming into the matchup with 7-3-0 records in their last 10 games, but there’s plenty to look for in what could be a hard-fought matchup.
The Bruins had a nasty battle against the Washington Capitals on Thursday, a second loss to their conference opponents in the first rematch between the two since a dirty opening night beatdown. Lars Eller, who was on the receiving end of a Brad Marchand sucker-punch in Boston’s opening-night 7-0 loss to the defending cup champions, tried to get Marchand to answer for his crimes – but ended up putting Boston on the power-play when Marchand opted to preserve the team’s then-lead over duking it out head-to-head.
On Toronto’s end, everyone is still desperately awaiting William Nylander’s return to offensive form after putting up just three points in his first 15 games back in the lineup. At some point, he’ll have to either break out or snowball with the pressure – and a game against Boston seems like the perfect place to see something come to a head.
Hutchinson has been slowly climbing back out of the hole he found himself in following his exit from Winnipeg this summer, putting up two mediocre-to-poor games for Toronto to go with a 27-save win over New Jersey on Thursday and a 28-shot shutout over Vancouver five days prior. He’ll get another nod as Andersen recovers from the flu, hoping to pull his overall season statistics up even higher after starting out so poorly for the Panthers.
For Boston, Rask will get a chance to keep shining after Halak’s loss to Washington on Thursday, and it won’t be an easy task for Toronto. Although Rask is always a tough competitor for the Leafs, he’s also putting up a .920 save percentage this year in all situations, including a 24-save shutout over Minnesota in his last start and four straight wins. The Bruins have taken advantage of having such quality numbers from Jaroslav Halak this year as well, splitting the games evenly between their two goaltenders to give both ample rest and time to recover.