MAPLE LEAFS (1-0-1) at JETS (1-2-0)
The Toronto Maple Leafs head into Winnipeg to face the Jets tonight.
The Leafs are coming off a 4-1 win in their home opener against Boston. The Jets on Monday lost at home to the Bruins by the same 4-1 score.
So far the Leafs have seen Auston Matthews record a four- goal game and Mitch Marner dazzle in two games scoring his first NHL goal Saturday Night.
Probably the most important development though through the 1st two games was seeing Fredrik Andersen’s solid play as the teams 1st star versus Boston in his first win as a Leaf. The Leafs will need strong goaltending to come through for them and be the pillar of strength behind a young team.
Some encouraging signs for the Leafs besides Andersen? Scoring was spread out more on Saturday with goals from 3 different lines and all four lines contributing to scores through the first two games. The defense has become incredibly involved. Nikita Zaitsev has not looked like a raw rookie so far. He has shown lots of poise. Lastly, the Leafs do not look like they will be bullied or pushed around. Nazem Kadri stood up for himself in a mismatch fight against David Backes. He held his own against a much bigger, stronger opponent. And Matt Martin, a signing that was panned somewhat by the media and analytic proponents, is a deterrent and has thrown his body around through the first two games. Having a physical element will be important with a few smaller, young players on the roster.
Some mild concerns so far? It’s early, but it’s likely coach Mike Babcock would like to see the Leafs take care of the puck a bit better. It was encouraging to see the Leafs not under siege against Boston, a team that has often hemmed them in their own zone. The Leafs, being as young as they are, do tend to make more high risk plays and with their added skill, more cute plays likely to the chagrin of the coaches. That will be cleaned up as teams get more into the flow of things and a better handle on their defensive systems.
As for the Jets, they have had a bit of an up and down start so far. In the home opener against Carolina, they struggled out of the gate, down 4-1 through two periods before mounting a furious comeback and beating the Canes 5-4 in OT. On Saturday, they surrendered a 2-0 lead, gave up four unanswered goals and lost to the Minnesota Wild 4-3. Then their poor 4-1 loss to the Bruins Monday night.
The Jets so far have struggled on special teams. They have one power-play goal so far in three games, while they have surrendered three (though they do have a shorthanded goal). Their best player and captain, Blake Wheeler has come as advertised with three goals in three games so far. Dustin Byfuglien has led the team in ice time with a near 30 minute per game average.
Winnipeg will be missing two main pieces with Bryan Little out with injury and Jacob Trouba without a contract and holding out. Trouba has also requested a trade but the Jets have not found either a contract or a trade request that has been worthy.
This game will be advertised as the battle between top picks Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine of the Jets. Hopefully the Leafs will come out with a better effort than the last time they were in Winnipeg, a 6-1 defeat last November.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Nylander — Matthews — Hyman
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Michalek — Kadri — Komarov
Martin — Holland — Brown
Rielly — Marincin
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Zaitsev
Laine — Scheifele — Wheeler
Ehlers — Perreault — Stafford
Connor — Burmistrov — Armia
Matthias — Lowry — Tanev
Morrissey — Byfuglien
Enstrom — Myers
Chiarot — Postma