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Maple Leafs Pregame #3: Five things to watch for against Les Habitants

The Toronto Maple Leafs are undefeated. I mean, it’s only been two games, but they’re currently on pace to go 82-0. Stats don’t lie!

The Leafs won their season opener at home against Ottawa on Wednesday and then followed it up with a commanding 4-1 win on the road against a fast, gritty Blue Jackets team. You can say it’s two teams that likely aren’t going to make the playoffs, but a win is a win.

The Leafs struggled mightily with Ottawa for whatever reason last year, so exorcising that demon early in the season is a plus. Even though Columbus lost a good chunk of their notable players over the off-season, they still aren’t a team that’s ever going to just roll over and give you an easy win.

Anyways, the Leafs will look to extend their record to 3-0 tonight when le Club de hockey Canadien comes to town.

Montreal has played just one game this season and it resulted in a shootout loss to the Hurricanes in Carolina. After going down 2-0, the Habs stormed back with three goals in a row of their own, but the Canes tied the game in the third before ultimately winning in the shootout. Carey Price made 40 saves in the losing effort.

Projected Lines

LW C RW Forwards
Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.0#65 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 79.1#12 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 77.6#11 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 76.60#18 FL1
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 73.7#51 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 81.4#6 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 73.7#43 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 76.25#2 FL2
Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 74.4#39 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 72.1#100 C

Trevor Moore
TREVOR MOORE

Rating: 72.7#60 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 73.05#8 FL3
Nic Petan
NIC PETAN

Rating: 71.9#95 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 70.9#125 C

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.8#107 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.88#17 FL4

*It should be Timashov and Shore drawing back in while Petan and Spezza will come out. 

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 77.5#5 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.3#84 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.39#22 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 74.7#26 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 77.5#10 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 76.11#2 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 74.3#36 LD

Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Rating: 72.3#66 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.30#11 DL3

 

LW C RW Forwards
Tomas Tatar
TOMAS TATAR

Rating: 75.6#29 LW

Phillip Danault
PHILLIP DANAULT

Rating: 74.4#48 C

Brendan Gallagher
BRENDAN GALLAGHER

Rating: 76.5#15 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.49#24 FL1
Artturi Lehkonen
ARTTURI LEHKONEN

Rating: 73.5#54 LW

Max Domi
MAX DOMI

Rating: 77.0#23 C

Nick Suzuki
NICK SUZUKI
FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.28#6 FL2
Jonathan Drouin
JONATHAN DROUIN

Rating: 74.0#54 LW

Jesperi Kotkaniemi
JESPERI KOTKANIEMI

Rating: 72.2#97 C

Joel Armia
JOEL ARMIA

Rating: 73.3#50 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 73.21#6 FL3
Paul Byron
PAUL BYRON

Rating: 73.4#67 LW

Nate Thompson
NATE THOMPSON

Rating: 69.2#163 C

Jordan Weal
JORDAN WEAL

Rating: 72.1#70 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.58#10 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Victor Mete
VICTOR METE

Rating: 72.8#70 LD

Shea Weber
SHEA WEBER

Rating: 77.6#9 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 75.21#16 DL1
Ben Chiarot
BEN CHIAROT

Rating: 72.6#75 LD

Jeff Petry
JEFF PETRY

Rating: 77.3#14 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 74.92#7 DL2
Brett Kulak
BRETT KULAK

Rating: 74.7#25 LD

Cale Fleury
CALE FLEURY
DL3 Rating
Rating: 74.72#3 DL3

Now, some things to think about…

1. Michael Hutchinson’s season debut

It was a little odd that Mike Babcock opted to use Freddy Andersen in the first leg of the back-to-back rather than giving him the marquee start at home against the Habs, but here we are. Andersen started in Columbus yesterday so Michael Hutchinson will make his 2019-20 debut tonight on Hockey Night in Canada.

Hopefully, Hutchinson can be as good tonight as he was against the Habs in the pre-season. Hutchinson had his best start of the pre-season against Montreal back on Sept. 23 when he stopped all 38 shots that the Habs fired at him. That was the game in which the Habs iced a legitimate NHL roster and the Leafs sent out the Marlies and a few other guys battling for fourth-line roles on the team.

In his five games with the Leafs last season, Hutchinson posted a .914 save percentage. That’s all this team needs from their backup.

2. Cody Ceci…?

Has it already come to this? Is Cody Ceci Actually Good?!?!

Jokes aside, Ceci had a very strong game yesterday against the Blue Jackets. He scored his first goal as a member of the Leafs, but, perhaps even more importantly, he was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and only seven against in over 24 minutes of ice-time.

The optimistic hope over the summer when Ceci was acquired was that he could thrive playing in a smaller role on a deeper team. So far, he’s thriving while playing a large role. Hopefully, this isn’t just an early-season flash-in-the-pan and Ceci is, in fact, Actually Good.

3. Auston Matthews’ shot

Auston Matthews might have the best shot in the league. Just look at this thing.

Matthews has three goals in two games this season. He scored two on Craig Anderson and one on Joonas Korpisalo. Now, he’ll get to test out how good that shot actually is against Carey Price.

I’m really hoping for another snipe like this over Price.

4. Sandin gets Marincin back

Mike Babcock opted to give Justin Holl a look on the bottom pairing alongside Rasmus Sandin last night and it didn’t go well. I mean, you have to give Holl reps early in the season to see if he can fulfill the role as the team’s seventh defenceman, but it was a rough one. Holl stopped getting regular playing time in the third period and posted a 20 percent CF% rating in just nine minutes of playing time.

Sandin and Martin Marincin looked much better against Ottawa on Wednesday and this seems to be the more sensible pairing to roll with. It’ll be interesting to see how much rope this pairing gets in what’ll be the toughest game the Leafs have played this season. If the game is tight, we might not see much of them in third, but, if we do, it’ll be a great learning experience for Sandin.

5. Can the dominance against Montreal continue?

While the Leafs inexplicably struggled in their Battle of Ontario games last season, they dominated in their oldest rivalry. The Leafs won three of four games against the Habs with Montreal’s only win coming at the end of the season in a shootout.

While I said earlier that the wins against Ottawa and Columbus, two teams you don’t expect to be in the playoffs, are still meaningful in their own ways, tonight’s game is certainly Toronto’s biggest test of the season so far. The Habs boast a lot of depth up front and they play with a lot of speed and intensity. They also have a world-class goalie between the pipes. The Leafs continually managed to get the best of the Habs last season. Let’s hope that’s a trend that can continue.

ALSO! “Leafs killer” Ryan Peohling won’t be playing because, of course, he didn’t make the team. Habs fans spent all summer talking about how Poehling’s hat trick at the end of the 2018-19 season was an indication of how he was going to clown the Leafs all year. I guess we’ll have to wait for a little while to see.

Puck drop for tonight’s game is 7:00 PM ET and can be seen on Hockey Night in Canada.