Tonight is the third and final game of the three game series between the Leafs and Canucks, with the Leafs dominating play and winning both of the two prior games comfortably. While the Canucks have struggled at both ends of the ice, that doesn’t mean the Leafs should approach tonight’s game as an easy win – sometimes teams with something to prove surprise us, and if the Leafs get complacent they could end up chasing the game.
The storyline for the Leafs right now is of course the injuries piling up, with both @Travis Dermott and @Wayne Simmonds as new additions to the list that includes @Jack Campbell, @Joe Thornton, and @Nicholas Robertson.
While the Leafs depth is meant to be enough to weather these types of losses, it’s never fun to see the injured list grow. Simmonds in particular has been on somewhat of a hot streak, with 2 goals last game and 5 so far this season. In 61 games with the Devils before being traded last season he scored 8 goals total, just for reference. He’s never going to be one of the Leafs top scorers, but Simmonds has brought a needed and fun energy to the team and he will be sorely missed.
Speaking of top scorers, the Leafs offensive leaders are starting to step up their game and show off what they’re known for. @Auston Matthews had a 2-goal game on Saturday, and @Mitch Marner, @William Nylander, and @John Tavares are all contributing solid numbers, as well. These last two games against Vancouver have given the Leafs offense a chance to shine the way fans have been waiting for, and we’re hoping to see it again tonight.
Meanwhile, the Canucks continue to struggle, losing both games against Toronto after also losing both their games against Montreal. While this could bode well for a hot Leafs team looking to sweep the series, it could also go the other way, with the Canucks powering through and using the motivation of a losing streak to pull out a win against a potentially over-confident Leafs lineup. Nothing in hockey can be taken for granted, so the Leafs to maintain their fast-paced, starting on time strategy if they want to pull off the win tonight.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs player to watch: Auston Matthews
It took Matthews a couple games to get going, but now he’s on a roll. He is doing what he does best, and that’s score absolutely gorgeous goals. Watching him play hockey is so much fun, because he just keeps getting better. He’s on the hunt, hungry for a hat trick – you can just tell he wants it so badly. Will tonight be the night? I don’t know, but he’s definitely the player to watch.
Canucks player to watch: Bo Horvat
@Bo Horvat has got 6 goals so far this season, but only 1 against Toronto. As the captain, it’s time for him to step it up and lead by example to help motivate his struggling team. He’s a bit of a quiet leader, usually letting his play speak for itself, but his play has been relatively quiet lately, too. If there was ever a game for that to change and the Canucks captain to make a splash, it would be tonight.
Leafs starting goalie: Frederik Andersen
Sheldon Keefe will likely stick with starter @Frederik Andersen tonight, as Freddie has a history of riding a hot streak well. He’s been solid in net in both games against the Canucks so far, surrendering only 1 goal on Saturday after a soft penalty was called against his team. With @Jack Campbell still injured, that leaves only @Michael Hutchinson as the other potential goaltender for the Leafs – and Hutch’s history is not great with this team. At some point we’ll probably see him in net, but winning streaks are fun so I’m all for giving Freddie the start.
Canucks starting goalie: Braden Holtby
Veteran goalie @Braden Holtby will start again for the Canucks tonight, despite giving up 5 goals on 31 shots Saturday. He was visibly frustrated with himself and his team throughout the game, so it’s interesting that he’s back in net. However, this could be a redemption game for him, if he’s looking to make a big statement after Saturday’s loss. It’s hard to root against Holtby, who seems like a great guy. But at the end of the day the Leafs are looking for a win, so we’ll see if Holtby is able to shut them down.
The puck drops tonight at 7:00pm EST on Sportsnet.