Winnipeg Jets @ Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00 pm on Sportsnet Ontario, TSN3 and TVAS
Opponent's site: Arctic Ice Hockey
The Jets are on game two tonight, while the Leafs are on game four. There’s no COVID reason for that disparity, although, the Jets have had some issues.
They cancelled practice on Saturday after Tucker Poolman was placed on the NHL’s COVID Protocol List. No reasons are ever given for someone being on the list and it can potentially mean that person has tested positive, they are a close contact of someone who has, they have to isolate for travel reasons, they are waiting on a test result or a confirmation test result.
We just have to trust — as do the Leafs, the officials in the game, the arena staff, the airport staff etc. etc. — that it was a good decision to have the Jets travel to play today. This is the reality we all get to live with now.
The Jets had a Sunday media availability where the news was that Patrik Laine was perhaps injured. He did travel to Toronto, however. Nic Ehlers, a former member of the COVID list, is now on the playing roster again. Dylan DeMelo did not travel as he is a new father. No information has been given by Jets coach and media darling Paul Maurice about who he’s planning to use on defence in place of his missing men. Unfortunately Luca Sbisa was claimed off waivers, so he can’t just go with that choice.
Toronto did all that roster jigging around, waiving Dell etc. and ended up with Mikko Lehton on the roster tonight per Keefe, after Adam Brooks practiced at the 4LW spot.
If Brooks plays, his bar to surpass other 4LW in ice time this season is 5:27 seconds, but someone has to come out as this is expected to be an 11F, 7D game. Jason Spezza may stay in the lineup, so we’ll see who is missing tonight at game time.
The Leafs are starting Frederik Andersen. Which surprises people, I guess. I don’t know why.
Projected Toronto Lines
Joe Thornton - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Jimmy Vesey
Ilya Mikheyev - Alex Kerfoot - Zach Hyman
Adam Brooks - Jason Spezza - Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Zach Bogosian
Frederik Andersen - starter
Projected Winnipeg Lines
Nikolaj Ehlers - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor - Paul Stastny - ???
Andrew Copp - Adam Lowry - Mason Appleton
Matthieu Perreault - Nate Thompson - Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey - Sami Niku
Derek Forbort - Neal Pionk
Logan Stanley - Nathan Beaulieu
Connor Hellebuyck - assumed starter
Patrik Laine is out tonight with an upper-body injury, per Paul Maurice.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 18, 2021
Someone named Harkins draws in as replacement.
The Jets started their one and only game very sloppy and lacklustre against a fast and aggressive Flames team that was out for blood (I know this, I actually watched it). They came out after the second intermission and dominated for the rest of the game, and took it in OT on a goal by Laine.
Laine is on this season already. Forget all the jokes you’ve heard, games aren’t played in joke land where the other team is always LOL so BAD. The Jets second line has to be considered their best, and one of the best top six lines in the North Division. There are times Laine shoots in a way no goalie can stop, not even that one you like this week.
With Laine a late scratch, the quality of the Jets offence is seriously impacted.
Meanwhile Coach Maurice has taken to using terms like “home plate” and “high-danger scoring chances” with the press, so it seems like he’s fully bought in on the idea that it’s not so much shots allowed, but the quality of what you allow. He also discusses the importance of protecting the slot as a defensive priority, which would be a fun thing for the Leafs to try out.
This is the analytics version (circa 2008) of “bad defensive team talks about keeping shots to the outside while rarely actually doing that”. To the Jets’ credit, they actually did that to some extent against the Flames for two periods in a very high-event game.
The Jets are capable of playing a fast-skating team even though they look older than you’d like. They have a very good top six, and terrible to passable everything else until you slam into their Vezina goalie. Josh Morrissey is their only legitimately good defender with DeMelo out of the lineup, and he’s maybe TJ Brodie’s level on a good day. He’s not Jake Muzzin.
If the Leafs hand the slot over to the Jets to shoot in at will the way the Flames did, and the way they seem to be doing lately, the Jets will only need an ordinary performance from their goalie to win. If the Leafs make a lie of Maurice’s modern take on keeping shots to the outside, the Leafs will be in a position to win it.
I recommend that second thing.
Go Leafs Go and find the opposing net!