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Maple Leafs Pregame #37: Five Things to Watch Against the Red Wings

The Leafs look to win both halves of a back-to-back for the first time this season, and they’ll probably never get an easier opportunity, as they face the 9-24-3 Detroit Red Wings for the third time this season.

Both teams are trending in opposite directions, as the Leafs are sporting a 9-4 record since they fired Babcock, and the Wings have lost 14 of their last 16 games, including a 12 game losing streak.

Here’s what to look for in tonight’s game.

Lineups

Leafs lines have yet to be confirmed until later today, but right now it sounds like Trevor Moore might finally get back into the lineup after another injury this week during practice. According to Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets), if that’s the case Timashov will probably be the odd man out.

Meanwhile Detroit is looking like they have all season, a few solid pieces surrounded by garbage.

Hutchinson is the confirmed starter for Toronto, while former Leaf Jonathan Bernier is in net for the Red Wings.

1. Hutch’s Final Chance?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Hutchinson hasn’t been good for the Leafs. He’s gotten them just one point in the standings, and has yet to start a game where he’s allowed less than four goals or have a save percentage above .900.

Well, tonight he’s playing the Red Wings, if he can’t play well against them, it’s clear he *really* isn’t an NHL goalie. Even in a win, if he plays badly, he probably shouldn’t be back with the Leafs.

2. Avoiding the bad period

While on the topic of Hutch, his biggest problem is having one really bad period. Aside from his start against Boston, every game has been plagued with a bad period that loses the game for the Leafs. It was four in the third against Montreal, three in the second against Washington, three in the third against Montreal again, four in the first against Chicago, and four in the second against Buffalo.

Luckily, the Red Wings might not even get three or four shots on Hutch in a period, but if he can keep composed each period and not let it get away from him, it’ll go a long way for his performance and his confidence.

3. That goal differential tho

You ask yourself “The Red Wings can’t be that bad, can they?” and then you look at the standings. Not only are they already six points behind the New Jersey Devils, the next worst team (although without Taylor Hall, that could change for them), they already have a -62 goal differential, worse than the 2018-19 Kings -61, and the Wings haven’t even played half of their season yet.

That’s benefited the Leafs so far this season, as not only is the 6-0 win over Detroit the Leafs biggest goal differential win of the season, but their 5-2 win is tied for second (with like five other teams, but still). Goal differential is one of the tie breakers, and with the Atlantic as tight as it is, the Leafs will need to take advantage of racking up some goals to help them anyways they can.

4. Auston Matthews loves playing the Wings

I mean, everyone likes playing the Red Wings, but Matthews has always had a good time against the Red Wings. His 16 points against them is his fourth highest total against any team (after the Sabres, Habs, and Sens), and the same goes for his 10 goals against them. With Nylander and Marner taking over last night in New York, it might be Matthews turn to do so tonight.

5. The Rielly-Barrie pair

Speaking of players who like playing the Wings, Rielly’s 16 points against them is his second highest total after the Florida Panthers, so tonight might be a good time for him to get him turned around, especially defensively.

As for Barrie, the Wings were the last of his three game goal streak, and he hasn’t scored since, so tonight might also be a good opportunity for him to get his game together as well.