Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Marner, McCabe, and Giordano set to rest as Toronto entertains Detroit: Leafs Tailgate
By Nick Alberga10 months ago
After a hard-fought 3-0 shutout victory in Ottawa last night, the Leafs (45-20-10) will get right back at it tonight when they host the Detroit Red Wings (33-33-9) at Scotiabank Arena.
Matt Murray will get the call. With seven regular season games remaining, Toronto’s four points up on Tampa with two games in hand for second in the Atlantic Division.
As for the Wings, they’re coming off a 6-2 waxing in Winnipeg on Friday night. Through three of four outings against Detroit in 2022-23, the Leafs are 2-1-0. The Red Wings took the last encounter, 4-1, on January 12th at Little Caesars Arena.
Sheldon Keefe’s squad has posted an 8-3-1 record in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
TIME: 7 PM ET (Sportsnet Ontario)
DET Alex Nedeljkovic – CONFIRMED (4-6-2, 3.69, 0.888)
TOR Matt Murray – CONFIRMED (14-2-2, 2.97, 0.905, 1 SO)
CAN MATT MURRAY FIND CONSISTENCY AGAIN?
In six appearances since returning from an ankle injury, the two-time Stanley Cup champion is 3-3-0 with a 3.68 goals-against average and 0.886 save-percentage. Furthermore, he’s now surrendered four goals in seven of his past eight starts. Sure, you can argue that at times, the team in front of him hasn’t been good. That said, there’s no question Murray has another level to get to. We saw flashes of that in November and December. In that long-run, if Murray can’t pull his weight, it could be another early spring for the Maple Leafs and company. While in theory the last few games don’t matter, they do to someone like Murray, who continues to battle for consistency. To-date, since returning, his best outing was the 48-save masterpiece against the Sens in Kanata.
As noted, the Leafs have surprisingly performed admirably in the second half of a back-to-back going 8-3-1. I’d love to see how that stacks up around the league. All in all, for yours truly at least, it’s tough to look at this one as a true back-to-back because of the proximity between Ottawa and Toronto. At any rate, Toronto might not have their legs early, so it’ll be incumbent on Matt Murray and some simplicity to weather the storm in the first. On top of that, I expect Detroit to play with some bite and snarl after they were completely embarrassed in Winnipeg on Friday night.
CONTINUING TO PREPARE FOR TAMPA + LOAD MANAGEMENT
To the surprise of no one, the Lightning have started to turn a corner lately. Additionally, the match-up we’ve all known for months was coming was made official last night. Of course, the only question to be answered now is who will have home ice advantage for that series. Barring an epic collapse, it will be Toronto. With all that in mind, I would like to see the Leafs bring a business-like approach to final few regular season games. Again, in the grand scheme of things, they don’t mean much, but I think it’s important to develop some chemistry and consistency in time for when the games do matter. In essence, I would like to see more defensive performances like the one we witnessed last night in Ottawa. Furthermore, I’ve got no issue with load management. With Jake McCabe sitting tonight, the Leafs have now rested all nine of their NHL blue liners at least once since the trade deadline. Also, great to see Mitch Marner getting a night off, too. He’s been fantastic.
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