Time: 7:30 PM Eastern Time
Location: Air Canada Centre
Opponent SBNation Site: St. Louis Game Time
Let's not talk about February 3. Okay, we can discuss it a little. The game was Mike Yeo's first as head coach of the St. Louis Blues, and he did a pretty good job against the Leafs. Since taking over, the team is 3-1-0 under Yeo. Can the Leafs hand him his second defeat? (The first was against the Penguins last Saturday.)
On Tuesday night, while the Maple Leafs were looking a'ight against the Dallas Stars, the Blues were curb-stomping the Senators and especially Andrew Hammond, 6-0. They were on the second half of a back-to-back, with goaltender Jake Allen pitching a shutout after facing 30 shots. Will new coach Mike Yeo go with the hot hand today against the Leafs and play Allen? Or will he play Carter Hutton, who has lately been doing about average (.902) in 23 games played, but who also managed to pitch a shutout on Monday?
Yeo explained his decision to play Allen against the Sens thus: "What I've done in the past, what the organization has done in the past, is after a shutout you come back with that same goaltender, but given the way that Jake has played lately we had confidence in him coming into this game. We knew it was going to be a good test and he would be tested and he was outstanding."
That's right, the Blues are now streaking on two shutouts. Hutton's came on Monday night, 2-0 against the Flyers. With any luck, the ridiculous Leafs offense will spoil this particular record.
Yeo has played exactly four games with his new team now. He's come out from the shadows behind Ken Hitchcock with all guns blazing, and managed to immediately fix a few of the team's deficiencies. According to St. Louis Game Time, Yeo's been making lineup decisions that emphasize players' strengths: "It's also amazing what your best center can do with arguably (or not) the best two wingers on the team. Too bad Hitch couldn't figure that out, he'd probably still have his job."
The line they are talking about is Alexander Steen - Paul Stasny - Vladimir Tarasenko, and I'm sure Mike Babcock has already taken notes. Here Tarasenko's two goals from the game against the Senators. As SLGT mentioned, it's incredible what a good winger can do with a good center. Is it likely that Selke-hopeful Nazem Kadri is matched against this line? Yes.
How do the teams match up, numbers wise? Toronto currently sits at third place in the Atlantic division, with 60 points in 52 games played. St. Louis is fourth in the central, at 59 points just one shy of Nashville (in third place at 60 points), but with one more game played. Both teams have about the same PDO, with St. Louis at 99.79%, and Toronto at evens, 100.60%.
The two teams are also incredibly close in CF% at 5-on-5, with Toronto slightly higher at 50.71%, and St. Louis at 49.90%. With this slight variation, it won’t show much difference on the ice — but again, St. Louis’s numbers span their season before the coaching change, so it likely doesn’t describe the team well right now.
In better news, St. Louis has a horrific 161 goals against to Toronto’s 149. Sure, the goalies have had some shutouts lately, but I think this indicates that there’s a chance — perhaps the defense isn’t what it should be, or perhaps Hitchcock’s system was leaky, but this is where Toronto should step in and make the goaltenders cry.
Let’s get some revenge, Leafs!
Toronto Maple Leafs
(Babcock will change it anyway.)
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Matt Martin - Ben Smith - Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak
St. Louis Blues
(From their last game)
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Kenny Agostino - Jori Lehtera - David Perron
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Magnus Pääjärvi
Scottie Upshall - Ivan Barbashev - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Bortuzzo Kevin - Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko