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Preview: Maple Leafs vs Vancouver Canucks

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To Liljegren or not to Liljegren, that is the question.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Vancouver Canucks: 7:00 p.m.
Watch on: CBC (Hockey Night in Canada)
Opponent’s site: Nucks Misconduct

The Leafs face the Canucks for the second time this season, this time at home. It’s also another game in their Next Gen series.

There’s no word yet on whether or not Keefe will be having a go at the 11 forwards, 7 defensemen set up again. It did work out for the team last time, technically, since they won Thursday’s game against the Panthers, but I would say that that had very little to do with the 11/7 set up as some sort of strategic decision. It did allow them to spread out minutes among the defense quite a bit (only Barrie at 24:01 and Marcincin, technically, at 20:01) spent more than 20 minutes on the ice. Liljegren ended up with 5:21 of ice time, and Rosen with 8:43. Keefe stated after Thursday’s game that it was to allow them extra flexibility, and to see how the younger players would do in particular. If we’re following that logic it makes sense that they would call that experiment sorted and go back to six defensemen tonight. Unless Keefe has decided that his goal is to try and get as many former (or current) Marlies on the ice as possible in every game, I don’t think there’s any benefit to sticking to that structure long-term versus just returning to the standard six defensemen. With lines at morning skate including both a Rosen-Marincin and a Ceci-Liljegren pairing, it’s not yet clear who’ll be playing tonight, however.

What I would really like to see the Leafs do again tonight that they did in Thursday’s game is not collapse in the face of adversity, and play a strong game right until the end. They’ve been doing a better job recently of not completely giving up in the third (please don’t take this as a challenge to prove me wrong). Kapanen has also significantly stepped up his game recently, and Matthews is started throwing his body around a bit more, both things that I’m very in favour of continuing. Andersen is also starting in net and aside from a... rough start on Thursday, he’s been looking a lot more solid in net of late. Campbell will probably draw in more next week as they head to California anyways.

The Leafs and Canucks are both strong on the powerplay, sitting at 4th and 3rd in the league respectfully. However, the Canucks have a much better penalty kill, which is less ideal for the Leafs. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Leafs game if there wasn’t some sort of playoffs narrative – in this case, it’s that the Canucks are in danger of dropping into a wildcard spot. And we all know where the Leafs are sitting (also on the edge).

Let’s help them on their way out.

Maple Leafs Lines

Based on lines at morning skate

Forwards

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Alexander Kerfoot
Pierre Engvall - Jason Spezza - Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford - Frederik Gauthier - Denis Malgin

Defense

Travis Dermott - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Tyson Barrie
Martin Marincin - Calle Rosen

Goalies

Frederik Andersen - starter
Jack Campbell

Canucks Lines

Via the Daily Faceoff

Forwards

Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Loui Eriksson
J.T. Miller - Elias Pettersson - Tyler Toffoli
Antoine Roussel - Adam Gaudette - Jake Virtanen
Tyler Motte - Jay Beagle - Brandon Sutter

Defense

Alexander Edler - Troy Stecher
Quinn Hughes - Chris Tanev
Oscar Fantenberg - Tyler Myers

Goalies

Thatcher Demko
Louis Domingue


Everyone gets some beach time as the Leafs defenders slowly return to health: