MAPLE LEAFS (1-0-2) at WILD (2-1-0)
The Toronto Maple Leafs roll into Minnesota tonight to battle the Wild.
The Leafs are coming off of a disheartening 5-4 overtime loss to the Jets in a game which saw them cough up a 4-0 lead due mostly to the outstanding play of Mark Schieffle and a hat trick from number two overall pick Patrick Laine, coupled with the fact that young Leafs team just seemed to stop executing.
Obviously we knew there would be days like this. A team this young can be expected to have hiccups along the way, and that’s exactly what happened tonight. Up 4-0 late in the second period, the Leafs started to ease up on the gas just a little bit, just as the Jets started to throw caution to the wind. The result was Tyler Myers burying a shot on a 2 on 1 to cut the lead to 4-1. It would stay that way as we headed to the second intermission. The third period was all Jets, or more specifically, all Laine as he scored a beauty to cut the lead to 4-2, and then after the Leafs clung to a 4-3 lead for dear life for exactly 13 minutes, Laine converted on a great feed from Nikolaj Ehlers to tie the game at 4 with 55 seconds remaining. “Laine’s better” chants rang out through the MTS Centre following the tying goal, although for a moment it appeared as though number one overall pick Auston Matthews would be spared that particular indignity as William Nylander sprung him on a breakaway midway through the overtime period. However in a cruel twist of fate Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson read Matthews attempt to go 5 hole perfectly sending the Jets on a 2 on 1 the other way, on which Laine would emphatically declare that he was, in fact, better on this night as he snapped home the game winner to complete the hat trick and shatter the Leafs’ hopes on this night.
All of the above is not to say that the game was without it’s positives. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews each recorded their first career NHL assists, on goals by Connor Carrick and William Nylander respectively. Nylander would respond with an assist, his 4th point of the young season, on Nazem Kadri’s 2nd goal of the night 8 seconds later. Matthews, Nylander and Marner have combined for 11 points in 3 games. I believe if you’d have told us that a week ago, we’d have been ecstatic. Another positive is that the line of Leo Komarov, Nazem Kadri, and Milan Michalek has looked excellent in each game setting the tone for the Leafs lineup. Nikita Zaitsev continues to look the part of an NHL defenseman, although I’m slightly concerned that he may be a cyborg as he never seems to leave the ice.
There are also certainly negatives that need to be addressed. Martin Marincin has been uneven at best. Some of that can certainly be attributed to him playing on the right side, which would be his off side, however he needs to make better decisions with the puck and be stronger on clearing attempts. In short it’d be great if he’d stop treating the puck like it was a hand grenade. Frederik Andersen has also allowed 11 goals in 3 games. While you can’t really pin much of tonight’s loss on him, that number certainly needs to decrease going forward if the Leafs are going anywhere this season.
It is anticipated that backup goaltender Jonas Enroth will make his Toronto Maple Leafs debut tonight versus the Wild in the second game of back to backs. The Leafs signed Enroth to a 1 year contract worth $750K to back up Frederik Andersen this offseason. Enroth last faced the Wild on February 22nd, 2015, a night on which he allowed 6 goals as a member of the Dallas Stars. He and the Leafs will be hoping tomorrow night goes a lot better as they try to bounce back against a well coached and talented Wild team.
The Wild doubled up the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 on Tuesday night, the last time that they were on the ice. Defenseman Ryan Suter leads the team with 4 points in 3 games, while Charlie Coyle leads them in goals with 2. With the Wild not in action tonight or Friday, it’s likely we’ll see starting goalie Devan Dubnyk between the pipes for them this evening. Dubnyk was strong against the Leafs last year, blanking them 1-0 despite a good effort for the Blue and White in December at Minnesota, and surrendering just 1 goal at the ACC in March as the Wild held on to beat the Leafs 2-1.
Last year the Leafs went into Minnesota needing a solid effort on the second night of back to back games after a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they’ll look to get back on track tonight after a frustrating loss to the Jets yet again. Hopefully they find a way to make it happen and extend their streak of scoring points in each game to 4 in a row to start the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Nylander — Matthews — Hyman
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Michalek — Kadri — Komarov
Martin — Holland — Brown
Rielly — Marincin
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Zaitsev
Parise — Staal — Coyle
Granlund — Koivu — Stewart
Niederreiter — Haula — Pominville
Zucker — Dalpe — Pulkkinen
Suter — Spurgeon
Scandella — Dumba
Brodin — Folin