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5 Thoughts Ahead of the Finale in Cali

In what almost certainly will be the last time the Maple Leafs play in California, tonight the Leafs will take on the Anaheim Ducks in the third contest of this West coast road trip.

The results so far have not been very inspiring, despite these three teams being shadows of their recent greatness. In a 5-2 loss to San Jose, and a 1-0 shootout loss in Los Angeles, they will look to have a stronger showing tonight against Anaheim.

Lines

Toronto

With no pregame skate today, these lines are based on the line rushes from yesterday.

LW C RW
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 75.1#28 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 82.7#4 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 77.1#14 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.30#3 FL1
William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 76.6#14 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 78.7#13 C

Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 71.9#88 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.73#5 FL2
Kyle Clifford
KYLE CLIFFORD

Rating: 70.1#115 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 71.6#94 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 72.8#65 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.48#15 FL3
Denis Malgin
DENIS MALGIN

Rating: 69.8#118 LW

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.5#142 C

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 70.2#128 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 69.82#26 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 72.0#74 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.6#52 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.32#28 DL1
Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Rating: 71.1#98 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.9#17 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.47#14 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 72.1#69 LD

Timothy Liljegren
TIMOTHY LILJEGREN

Rating: 72.2#65 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.17#11 DL3

Anaheim

LW C RW
Sonny Milano
SONNY MILANO

Rating: 71.2#93 LW

Ryan Getzlaf
RYAN GETZLAF

Rating: 73.1#58 C

Danton Heinen
DANTON HEINEN

Rating: 71.0#101 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 71.78#31 FL1
Rickard Rakell
RICKARD RAKELL

Rating: 73.1#55 LW

Adam Henrique
ADAM HENRIQUE

Rating: 75.2#33 C

Jakob Silfverberg
JAKOB SILFVERBERG

Rating: 72.4#74 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 73.60#16 FL2
Max Jones
MAX JONES

Rating: 69.3#132 LW

Sam Steel
SAM STEEL

Rating: 70.0#130 C

Kiefer Sherwood
KIEFER SHERWOOD

Rating: 70.1#130 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 69.78#28 FL3
Nicolas Deslauriers
NICOLAS DESLAURIERS

Rating: 69.6#126 LW

David Backes
DAVID BACKES

Rating: 71.1#106 C

Carter Rowney
CARTER ROWNEY

Rating: 69.3#141 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.00#24 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Jacob Larsson
JACOB LARSSON

Rating: 69.4#121 LD

Michael Del Zotto
MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO

Rating: 71.5#81 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 70.45#30 DL1
Brendan Guhle
BRENDAN GUHLE

Rating: 71.2#88 LD

Matt Irwin
MATT IRWIN

Rating: 69.9#110 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 70.56#28 DL2
Christian Djoos
CHRISTIAN DJOOS

Rating: 71.0#100 LD

Jani Hakanpaa
JANI HAKANPAA
DL3 Rating
Rating: 71.02#22 DL3

Ducks Fire Sale

In years past, there was always a link between the Anaheim Ducks and the Toronto Maple Leafs. This year around, there were many (myself included) clamoring for this connection to be re-established in the form of a Josh Manson trade to Toronto. However, no such deal could be ratified.

The Ducks made a large number of trades still, though, with new dance partners. They sent out key roster players like Onrdrej Kase, Derek Grant, and Nick Ritchie, in hopes of getting some future value back. That all remains to be seen, but for tonight, it leaves the Ducks with a severely depleted roster.

This is especially apparent on the blue line, where the Ducks boast a D-core led by Jacob Larsson and Michael Del Zotto, who may be #6 defenders on a good team. Of course, Toronto isn’t in much better shape right now with Dermott and Holl on the top pair.

Road Trip Blues

With the three teams the Leafs have faced this week each being in the bottom 5 teams in the league, one would hope that the Leafs would have come out with 6 points, but now the most they can leave with is 3, for a .500 record in California. This is concerning, for sure, but Pittsburgh literally just came out of an 0-3 trip to Cali, so it could just be that these teams are on an upswing and the Leafs (and Penguins) happen to be falling victim to it.

Regardless, things have to be better tonight than they have been.

Goalie Problems Solved?

Frederik Andersen earned a shutout last night, and the Leafs still somehow managed to lose. Tonight, Jack Campbell is expected to get the nod, and can’t hope to perform any better — though he certainly can hope for a better offensive performance in front of him.

So far this season, Campbell has a 93% 5-on-5 save percentage in his 5 games for Toronto, and 91.3% in all situations, a perfectly respectable set of numbers. With Freddie’s great performance last night, this duo hopefully can keep the ship afloat as Toronto heads down the stretch with a battered and recovering defense core.

Line Shuffle

Head coach Sheldon Keefe has been slowly tinkering with the Leafs’ forward group over the last few weeks to try to find the exact right fit as they gear up for a very difficult playoff run. Last night, as many Leafs fans were hoping, Alexander Kerfoot moved back to the 3C spot, giving Pierre Engvall a chance to rekindle his early NHL success with a stint in the top 6. Engvall was okay last night, but the Leafs may hope for more out of that group, or pull the trigger on changing him out for someone else.

If I were the one in charge, I would look at Denis Malgin as the best candidate to fill in on the top 6 while Andreas Johnsson is out. He’s been hit and miss so far, but on his good days he can make his line really special. With Nylander’s puck control and John Tavares’ instincts, Malgin’s energy and hockey IQ seem to be a perfect fit. Keefe went this direction for parts of last night’s game, after Eng all wasn’t quite fitting in.

Keys to the Game

Lastly, it’s always important to highlight the very specific elements that Toronto needs to execute on tonight to win this hockey game. It’s been a staple of hockey broadcasts for a long time, and to not include it in this pre-game report would not only be a missed opportunity, but downright irresponsible. Here are my 3 keys to tonight’s game:

  1. Score more goals than the other team
  2. Play well
  3. Have fun

Tonight’s game starts at 10 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast on TSN4.