Toronto Maple Leafs at Colorado Avalanche: Game number 32
Time: 9:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: That big old Pepsi Can
Broadcast/Streaming: Altitude, TSN 4
Opponent SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey
Only 11 days ago, these two teams met for their first game of the season at the ACC. The Avs are bad. Real bad. So the Leafs put Antoine Bibeau in net as step one in their elaborate multi-part plan to replace Jhonas Enroth with someone who doesn’t make everyone cry.
The Corsi battle was won decisively by the Leafs 66-37. All situations Corsi was 99-52.
But when Patrick Roy quit, he left a stack of the Get Out of Jail Free cards in the coach’s desk, and New Guy has not been able to resist using them. The card has Semyon Varlamov’s face on one side and Roy’s favourite maxim, “Our goalie has to be our best player,” on the reverse.
The Avs beat the Leafs 3-1.
Anyone who’s ever read a fairy tale knows there’s a price to be paid for that kind of magic, and Varlamov was out for several games after with a re-occurrence of his oft-occurring groin injury. Perhaps the Avs would be interested in an extra NHL-ready backup? Someone small and compact who packs easily for road trips?
That was then, this is now, and the lineups for tonight should be something like the following:
Toronto Maple Leafs
Oh, you know, the usual guys in the usual arrangement—wait! What? Who?
Most recent practice lines:
Morgan Rielly wasn’t at the most recent practice, but the expectation is the defence will be in the usual configuration of late:
Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak
Frederik Andersen - confirmed starter for this game
Assembled by hand from Natural Stat Trick data for the last game since Daily Faceoff was totally off. No guarantee this won’t be rejigged, since the Avs lost that game 2-0 in a completely flaccid performance against the Wild.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan Mackinnon - Rene Bourque
Jarome Iginla - Matt Duchene - Mikko Rantanen
Mikhail Grigorenko - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Joe Colbourne
Fedor Tyutin - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Patrick Wiercioch
Francois Beauchemin - Cody Goloubef
So, those lines, eh? No, not the Leafs. Look at the Avs lines. Carl Soderberg and his boys were the only line in the last game who were not bad on an epic scale. They were the only three players to have a CF% over 50. And they had eight Corsi For in the game. Not eight shots on goal, eight attempts.
That is the New Avs, bad in a whole new way. They have, to a large extent, fixed their massive shots against problem—the last Leafs game notwithstanding. They allow fewer shots than the Leafs themselves on average, but then, nearly everyone does. What the Avs have done under New Guy is give up totally on offensive production.
Roy liked to play a team that got opportunistic chances off the rush. Matt Duchene and Nate MacKinnon as well as Tyson Barrie excel at that.
New Guy has imposed some structure, tightened up the back end, tried to spread the talent around, done all the things that look smart. He’s even willing to make Beauchemin, who was past-it before he ever became an Av, into the highest paid third pairing D in the league. (I have no idea if that’s true, and the fact-checking department closed early for Christmas.)
The result is a team that manages to just barely out-do the desperately dull Detroit Red Wings in shots for.
Which brings me to the Leafs practice lines. They are, in fact, the greatest insult the Avs have suffered this year, worse even than Duchene’s hit on Wiercioch. They say that the Avs offensive is so flaccid that Byron Froese or Freddie Gauthier is a good enough check on it. Nazem Kadri is getting a makeover as an offensive centre, and his Christmas gift is Mitch Marner as a winger. Auston Matthews gets his good at the cycle, dogged puck diggers, and rest assured William Nylander will pop up on that line at will.
Frederik Andersen gets the start for the Leafs, and one of the goalies New Guy needs to be the best player on the team goes for the Avs. Tactics and line matching might not matter at all if he uses another of those Get Out of Jail Free cards.
One more time, because it is funny, even though I don’t know if Wiercioch is hurt or not:
Semyon Varlamov will start tonight. Coach Bednar will decide on tomorrow's starter in Chicago after game vs. Toronto.— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 22, 2016
Not a change, just confirmation:
#Leafs lines in morning skate:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) December 22, 2016
Leafs and Avalanche defender pairings are as expected.
Avalanche lineups for tonight are tweaked a little:
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Joe Colborne - Matt Duchene - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Carl Soderberg - Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen / Mikhail Grigorenko - John Mitchell - Cody McLeod