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Maple Leafs Pregame #54: 5 things to watch for against the Rangers

Welcome to the Hutchinson era. That’s how we roll now. Or maybe it will be the Georgiev era if the two GMs have a heart to heart sometime in the next 24 hours.

Anyways, the Leafs are back to being on the outside looking in thanks to the loss to Florida on Monday, but a win temporary moves them ahead of the Panthers by 1 point (though Florida would have two games at hand) and they’d be tied with the Flyers in points for the final wild card spot (although the Flyers also will have a game at hand.)

The moral of the story is that every game is an important one, and given that the Rangers are clearly on the outside of the playoff picture, this is a most win for the Leafs, regardless of who is in net.

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Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.1#38 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 82.2#4 C

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Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.6#6 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.28#4 FL1
Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

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Rating: 72.1#82 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 77.7#17 C

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William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 77.1#11 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.64#8 FL2
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 72.4#73 LW

Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.0#70 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 71.4#83 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.29#8 FL3
Trevor Moore
TREVOR MOORE

Rating: 69.3#129 LW

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.7#159 C

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 71.2#87 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.06#26 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 74.4#27 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.3#15 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 73.34#23 DL1
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 71.4#90 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 76.4#10 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.91#10 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 74.1#32 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.4#80 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.73#11 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Phil Di Giuseppe
PHIL DI GIUSEPPE

Rating: 70.6#114 LW

Mika Zibanejad
MIKA ZIBANEJAD

Rating: 81.1#6 C

Pavel Buchnevich
PAVEL BUCHNEVICH

Rating: 72.1#81 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 74.60#24 FL1
Artemi Panarin
ARTEMI PANARIN

Rating: 82.2#4 LW

Ryan Strome
RYAN STROME

Rating: 74.3#47 C

Jesper Fast
JESPER FAST

Rating: 71.2#88 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.90#7 FL2
Brett Howden
BRETT HOWDEN

Rating: 68.8#172 LW

Filip Chytil
FILIP CHYTIL

Rating: 70.5#145 C

Kaapo Kakko
KAAPO KAKKO

Rating: 71.1#91 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 70.12#30 FL3
Brendan Lemieux
BRENDAN LEMIEUX

Rating: 69.4#128 LW

Greg McKegg
GREG MCKEGG

Rating: 68.1#180 C

Brendan Smith
BRENDAN SMITH

Rating: 68.5#129 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 68.64#31 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Brady Skjei
BRADY SKJEI

Rating: 72.6#66 LD

Adam Fox
ADAM FOX

Rating: 75.0#3 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 73.80#20 DL1
Ryan Lindgren
RYAN LINDGREN
Jacob Trouba
JACOB TROUBA

Rating: 73.6#32 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.58#15 DL2
Marc Staal
MARC STAAL

Rating: 70.2#111 LD

Anthony DeAngelo
ANTHONY DEANGELO

Rating: 75.3#16 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.76#10 DL3

GREG MCKEGG SIGHTING!!! Also, I think this is the Rangers team I’ve hated the most since the mid-90s. 

Here’s 5 things to watch for…

1. Pierre Engvall is taking care of business

While the hype for Engvall may have died down a fair bit, he’s still quietly being a comforting fixture on the Leafs third line. I’d argue he’s being everything the Leafs hoped Kerfoot would be, freeing Kerfoot up to be underwhelming in other areas. I don’t want to turn this into a bash Kerfoot section, when I mean to be singing the praises of Engvall, but there is a lot of reason for optimism with Engvall as being a great bottom six utility player who can make guest appearances in the top six on the wing, and I kinda love him for that.

Hopefully Engvall can help jump start Johnsson and Kapanen who both need to contribute more to up their trade value or to give the Leafs a viable third line down the stretch. As it sits right now, both of these players that want to be in the top six would be candidates for demotion to the fourth line if Mikheyev was healthy enough to play. Crap, I wasn’t wanting to bash players here. I mean I love Engvall.

2. Travis Dermott needs to make the most of his chance

Eventually the Leafs will find themselves in a situation where they have four good left side defensemen in the lineup with Rielly, Muzzin, Sandin, and Dermott. Given the rise of Sandin and the excitement over his future, Dermott could be a player moved to the right side or considered expendable, which is odd considering at this time last year there was plenty of lobbying for Dermott being a fixture in the top four.

Dermott hasn’t made a case for being in the top four, now that he’s been thrust into that situation, and now more than ever, with Andersen out indefinitely, Travis needs to make his case that he’s ready for the bigger role and can handle the tougher competition. There’s probably no one I’d rather see be successful on the Leafs than Dermott, as his personality and appreciation for his team, the city and fans makes him the kind of player you want to keep around. It would just be nice to see the results on the ice as well.

3. Matthews getting back in the race

In all the things that are going on, Matthews being in the Rocket Richard race is probably not too important, but somehow he’s been one of the top tier Leafs that has managed to stay healthy, and this might be his best shot at hitting 50 goals and possibly chasing down Ovechkin, although right now it doesn’t look like anyone will catch Ovechkin.

The other aspect of Matthews getting back in the race is that the Leafs aren’t going to be too great at keeping pucks out of their net, so they’ll have to focus on putting them in the net instead, and this is going to fall largely on Matthews, Nylander, and Tavares to do.

4. Dmytro Timashov

Are we ever going to see him in a Leafs uniform again? I’m guessing not at this point, and I wonder if he could be part of a potential fit in a deal for Georgiev as well, given that it’s kinda ridiculous that the Rangers are still trying to use Brendan Smith as a 4th line winger.

5. Please let it be 2020 Starter Hutchinson who shows up tonight

Hutchinson has struggled in his recent relief efforts, as he has throughout the season, but over his last four starts, three of them can be considered his best work of the season. It goes without saying the Leafs need that guy in net tonight, and not the guy who had a difficult time on mop up duty against Florida. A good game from Hutchinson is a good case for him getting his shot to stick around as the #2 guy behind Andersen, and carry the load until Andersen is ready to return, which is hopefully (but unlikely) this weekend when the Leafs have back to back games and someone other than Hutchinson will probably need to start.

Gametime is 7:30 PM ET and it can be seen on Sportsnet.