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Preview: Maple Leafs finish their California trip with some Duck hunting

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This one starts early. You might get to bet before 1 a.m. if you watch it.

NHL: FEB 07 Ducks at Maple Leafs
... what is going on here?
Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs at Anaheim Ducks: 10:00 p.m.
Watch on: TSN4, PRIME (whatever that is)

Opponent’s site: Anaheim Calling

Well, here we are, facing the SEGABABA of this road trip with one point to show for the prior two games. The urgency for points has been tempered by Florida’s disinterest in getting any either, and the Leafs hold a five-point lead that gets more comfortable every game they play without eroding it — win or lose.

That said, it sure would be nice to come out of this road trip with three points not one. The trouble is the Ducks look like beating them should be like shooting fish in a barrel, but they’ve got John Gibson, who is having the sort of year where you can forget he’s a top five goalie over his career. He is usually elite to Frederik Andersen’s very good, but this year, they are very close to equal in badness (Jonathan Quick is right in there with them). Will we get vintage Gibson (assuming he’s in, as Miller got their last start) or will we get this year’s version?

We can ask the same thing about Jack Campbell, the Leafs starter. He’s almost identical to Andersen on the season in meaningful stats like Save Percentage over Expected (not save percentage, which is a team stat as far as I’m concerned). The same desire to look at Leafs skaters “under Keefe” urges people to look at Campbell’s performance only on the Leafs. But on the season, using measures that slice out some of the team impact from his results he’s below average just like Andersen.

All of that tells you that one of these goalies will be better than the other tonight, but who and by how much? No one knows.

Maple Leafs Lines

Projected lines based on how they actually were used in the LA game. One defender will be scratched.

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

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

Jack Campbell - starter
Frederik Andersen

Ducks Lines

from Daily Faceoff

Sonny Milano - Ryan Getzlaf - Danton Heinen
Rickard Rakell - Adam Henrique - Jakob Silfverberg
Max Jones - Sam Steel - Kiefer Sherwood
Nicolas Deslauriers - David Backes - Carter Rowney

Jacob Larsson - Michael Del Zotto
Brendan Guhle - Matt Irwin
Christian Djoos - Jani Hakanpaa

John Gibson
Ryan Miller

Daily Faceoff has a feature on their line combos where they give a rating of how that line rates league wide. And they do it by type, so the first lines are compared to other first lines, second line to second, etc. They use the Corsica Hockey player rankings, about which I know nothing, so if you’re curious, you can go look that up.

That Ducks first line is ranked 30th in the NHL. The second line is 16th, the third is 27th and the fourth (where Backes has the highest player rating, and is a guy who couldn’t crack the Bruins lineup) is 23rd. Their defence pairs rank 30th, 29th and 21st.

The Leafs have no excuse not beating this team unless Gibson pulls a stunt he’s been incapable of most of the season.

The Leafs top line is rated 2nd, so how be we stow the “need more from the depth” talk that’s been swirling around the team. The Leafs second line is 9th (in the version with Engvall, Malgin is ranked lower). Their third line with Kerfoot as centre is 21st and the fourth line is a forgettable 28th, and Jason Spezza isn’t helping, his five-on-five play hasn’t been above a fourth liner. No one should be expecting players of that quality to produce. And they should be expecting the top six to carry the team right now.

Now, are you ready for the D-pair rankings? Remember this is by type, so when I tell you Dermott - Holl is the 28th ranked first pair, you won’t be surprised. The second pair is 14th, driven by a positive enough ranking for Barrie, that I would argue with it. The third pair of Sandin and Liljegren is the 7th ranked third pair in the NHL.

And so I say to you, that the time has come to move Sandin up to the second pair and leave him there until both Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly are back. He’s not going to be overwhelmed, and he is going to take the role and learn from it. What are we waiting for? This season has been a perpetual training camp, let’s get him trained.

In the meantime, Leafs, win this one, okay?


UPDATE: maybe two of those D will be scratched...