Toronto Maple Leafs @ New Jersey Devils
07:00 PM at Prudential Center
Watch on: MSGSN, TSN4
The Leafs last game was an away game on March 4 against the Vancouver Canucks, which Toronto lost by a score of 4-1. The Leafs have a record of 38-17-8 so far.
The New Jersey Devils last played an away game on March 5 against the Arizona Coyotes. The Devils won by a score of 5-4, and their current league record is 41-15-6.
The fourth-place team visits the third-place team in the NHL, so naturally, this is an all Eastern Conference matchup.
The National Team of Switzerland, or the New Jersey Devils as they are sometimes known, are having an exceptional year. They’ve done everything they can to finish first in the Metro, and they might overtake Carolina, but it’s going to be tough. They’re running a regular lineup with the only significant injury to Mackenzie Blackwood, who is on IR with an undisclosed injury of undisclosed duration.
The big deal for the Devils paid with a goal in Timo Meier’s first game, and now he gets to face the team who looked carefully at him, and chose multiple acquisitions over one big buy.
Last Game (03/05) via Daily Faceoff
Tomas Tatar - Nico Hischier - Dawson Mercer
Timo Meier - Jack Hughes - Jesper Bratt
Ondrej Palat - Erik Haula - Jesper Boqvist
Miles Wood - Michael McLeod - Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler - Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves - John Marino
Kevin Bahl - Damon Severson
Vitek Vanacek - likely starter
Speaking of acquisitions, if you missed the news yesterday, Ryan O’Reilly is on LTIR with a broken finger — duration is sometime longer than the minimum required, but not clarified further. John Tavares took in practice yesterday, but the decision was made to have him sit out for reasons that have not been fully explained — he took some hits, the flu is going around, travel was mentioned, and that’s three more reasons than Blackwood’s undisclosed.
The lines from practice are interesting because several things are going on. The second line looks like it’s sitting there waiting for Tavares. Will Sam Lafferty really play as the 2C? We’ll find out, but that has the earmarks of a placeholder subject to rapid change.
The other major issue is Michael Bunting on the fourth line. Sheldon Keefe has been unhappy with Bunting’s play, and while we seem to be in a “whatever the coach does is wrong, and how dare he pick on those poor players” phase of the season, well... I don’t think Bunting has been at his best this year.
Some caveats on this: I don’t think wingers are absolutely responsible for the defence that gets assigned to them in models that attempt to isolate impact, but it’s very fair to say this year is much worse. Matthews shows similar changes. Bunting’s GF impact is linked intrinsically to Matthews in a way no one can separate when they have played so little apart. The more alarming issue is the declining impact on Corsi For. This speaks to poor transitional play, poor puck control, giveaways, losing board battles, getting into scrums instead of playing hockey and a whole host of other pathways to failure. His purpose on that top line is to get the puck, get it to the offensive zone and keep it there. If he’s not doing that, he really doesn’t belong there.
But Alex Kerfoot can’t score!!! Well, I mean, so what? Really, so what if his shooting % is in the hole dug out under the basement. A real problem is that his impacts on Corsi For are passable, but not strong this season; however, his defensive measures are so massive, it’s pretty hard to shrug those off. He is a pass-first player, and everyone gets frustrated by that kind of player — that’s why Mitch Marner has been performing his one-man show I’ve been working on my shot for years. It might seriously be better, but I think he just shoots more than he used to. Kerfoot knows he’s not great, shoots less, and normally has a shooting % about the same as Marner’s.
Alex Kerfoot - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Calle Järnkrok - Sam Lafferty - William Nylander
Zach Aston-Reese - David Kämpf - Noel Acciari
Michael Bunting - Pontus Holmberg - Alex Steeves
Jake McCabe - TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Morgan Rielly - Timothy Liljegren
Extras: Erik Gustafsson, Conor Timmins
Ilya Samsonov - likely starter
Everything about this lineup screams out resting the players who need it. It’s very tempting to decide the lineup card is permanent reality, and also a report card at the same time, but there’s a lot of reasons to move players around. This won’t be the last version of the Leafs we see this year.
Just relax and imagine the entire nation of Switzerland screaming that the coach of the Devils is an idiot for not playing Meier with Hischier.
Oh, and Go Leafs Go (and don’t get hurt, okay, no one else needs to miss games).