We’re on the first half of a back to back and for the first time this season there isn’t any debate over whether Andersen or Hutchinson should start. Instead we’re likely to be treated to the Leafs debut of Jack Campbell, which is a pretty good reason to tune in and a pretty good reason to be excited about this game despite the Leafs losing their past two, and sitting outside a playoff spot.
Let’s talk about the playoff picture a little. The Golden Knights did the Leafs a favour by thumping the Panthers last night, and now Florida just is one point up with one game at hand. Fewer favours were done in the Wild Card race, as the Canes and Isles both won last night, and only the Flyers had the decency to implode against the Devils. That’s right, we’re 100% in scoreboard watching season, which is what we deserve after complaining about preset matchups against the Bruins for the past two years.
As for the Ducks, they lost last night in overtime to Montreal, so you can add tired to the long list of reasons why the Leafs should beat them. That said, nothing is easy, and the Leafs certainly make nothing look easy, so we’ll see how this plays out.
We’re gonna skip the Leafs roster since there’s a number of questions that still need to be answered with it, but you can probably assume that Hyman-Matthews-Marner & Kerfoot-Tavares-Nylander are both still lines that exist. Beyond that, stay tuned.
Here are five things to watch for…
Well, the easy answer is on the fourth line, and that’s probably all there is to it. He can take Moore’s spot, and we’ll see a Clifford-Gauthier-Spezza fourth line. And that’s fine. Clifford probably should be there. I’m just more of a fan of getting weird with things, and would be curious to see Spezza move to center and possibly bring Timashov back into the fold. I think Spezza and Clifford are 2/3rds of a really solid depth line, but think Gauthier might be too one dimensional, and hinder the strong possession and pressure game that Spezza and Clifford could provide. It would be interesting to see if Timashov would fit better. It would also be interesting to see if Spezza gets pushed back up to the third line at some point.
As for how Clifford fits in, I wouldn’t doubt he’ll want to show his toughness, and given that he’s seen a lot of the Ducks over the years I’m sure he’s got a few faces in their lineup that he’ll enjoy punching.
All signs point to yes.
Fairly well-attended optional skate for #Leafs today.
Jack Campbell working with Steve Briere in the starter’s net.
Frederik Andersen taking shots at the other end.
Michael Hutchinson observing.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 7, 2020
Given that a Pacific division opponent is something pretty familiar to him, this seems like a good call. Hutchinson just observing is an interest part, as the Leafs have back to back games. Is it possible that Andersen returns tomorrow night against the Habs? Will Campbell get back to back starts? Stay tuned.
As for tonight, let’s watch with patience as Campbell gets used to playing behind an entirely new team. His high danger save percentage hasn’t been great this year, so it will be important for the Leafs to keep the Ducks to the perimeter.
Well, Liljegren has definitely been recalled, it’s just a matter of whether he plays or Marincin plays. I think it’s safe to say that Liljegren is the popular choice of everyone not named Sheldon Keefe or Martin Marincin, and there’s a good chance that Keefe wants Liljegren in as well.
Who he plays with and how much is the bigger question, but given the Leafs are at home and they can shelter him. And that the Ducks aren’t particularly good, there’s no reason not to put him in. If Anaheim can unironic use Korbinian Holzer, the Leafs can see what they have in Timothy Liljegren.
It seems like a good portion of Leafs fans have now committed to Josh Manson being the answer on defense for the Leafs. So let’s watch Manson play. How does Manson fare against Tavares and Matthews? On the right side he has the luxury of lining up against Kerfoot and Hyman instead of Nylander and Marner, so it’s going to be more about how he handles those centers. Do we want to see Manson do well or do we want Matthews and Tavares to light him up?
It will be interesting to see if minds change on Manson after watching him because I bet a lot of us having been going off his stat lines, not that one game should change anyone’s mind.
Ryan Miller starts for the Ducks
John Gibson played last night in Montreal
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 7, 2020
This should be a gift, but backups tend to play the games of their lives against the Leafs, and maybe we’ll be getting Ryan Miller’s swan song tonight. I sure hope not because how great would it be to see Matthews hit 40 goals tonight? Also, a win would be nice.
Game time is 7PM ET and can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario.