The Leafs enter Tuesday night’s matchup against the Nashville Predators as one of the NHL’s hottest teams, having collected 16 of a possible 20 points over their last ten games. Their 8-2-0 record over those ten games matches the Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights for second-best in the league, behind the *checks notes* 8-1-1 Nashville Predators?!
Yes, Nashville is on a tear but then again so are the Leafs, which should make tonight’s matchup an intense one. In each of their last ten games, here are how the stats for these two teams match up:
|Penalty Kill %||88.5%||81.6%|
Nashville is definitely riding a bit of luck right now based on a very high shooting percentage. These sorts of things happen throughout a season and the Leafs just need to hope the Predators come down to Earth just in time for their matchup. Jack Campbell may be exactly what’s required to put a stop to that.
Opposition players to watch would be Matt Duchene and Roman Josi. During this ten-game streak, Duchene is third in league scoring with 15 points with Josi not far behind in ninth with 13 points. Josi, who co-leads all defencemen in scoring with the Rangers’ Adam Fox, has returned to his usual Norris-calibre play after a down year in 2020-21, so be on the lookout for him to join (or lead) the rush all night long.
As for the Leafs, you know that age-old saying: what is not broken must be fixed. Or at least, that seems to be Sheldon Keefe’s interpretation based on practice lines on Monday. It appears Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have been reunited after a rough start to the season, which means John Tavares re-welcomes William Nylander to his right side once again. Keefe’s explanation for the change:
Keefe on switching up the forward duos at the top, says it has more to do with Matthews and Nylander not connecting for much offense than anything else. pic.twitter.com/tEwenzYz0Z
— David Alter (@dalter) November 15, 2021
Other changes of note include Nick Ritchie’s promotion to the first line and Timothy Liljegren being scratched to get Rasmus Sandin back into the lineup after sitting on Saturday. It appears Travis Dermott, Sandin and Liljegren may be in some sort of defensive rotation right now, with Justin Holl potentially joining them if he continues to struggle defensively.
Ritchie struggled mightily in his first tour of duty alongside Matthews and Marner, often looking behind the play and having too many plays die on his stick. With the Leafs flying high right now, it may not be the worst time to re-try what, on paper, looked to be a logical trio at the beginning of this season.
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There’s not a whole lot here that should scare the Leafs too much. Nashville struggles to break even at 5v5 in terms of shot share or shot attempt share. Their current goal share outpaces their expected goal share, which speaks to the aforementioned unsustainable shooting luck they have been getting. One thing that Nashville should be scared of is the Leafs’ red-hot powerplay against their sub-80% penalty kill. If Nashville is undisciplined the Leafs may put this one out of reach.
It’s looking like Jack Campbell (8-3-1, 0.939 save %, 0.67 goals saved above expectation per 60) vs. Juuse Saros (7-4-1, 0.927, 0.26) tonight.
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