New York Islanders @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: TVAS, SN, MSGSN
The Leafs last game was away on January 27 against the Winnipeg Jets, which Toronto won by a score of 4-2 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 25-14-8 for a 0.617 Points %.
The New York Islanders last played at home on January 27 against the Florida Panthers. The Islanders lost by a score of 3-2 in overtime, and their current league record is 20-17-12 for a 0.531 Points %.
The thing about the Islanders is they never change. They have the same kinds of players with the same coach – a guy who cares only about defence. They are built from the net out, have more defence than they need and can't score.
Right? That's the Islanders.
Well it isn't. And it wasn't long before Patrick Roy broke the chain of defensive-minded coaches that the Islanders always seemed to think they needed.
Prior to Roy's hire, the Islanders stank defensively by their standards. Well, anyone's really. At five-on-five they're 25th in the league in Expected Goals Against. The surprise – until you looked at their lineup – was the good Expected Goals For.
The issue for the team was their below 50% possession metrics. NHL Edge has them at 38.8% Offensive Zone time at even strength. Producing good offence when they have the puck to the extent that they rate out good, even though they don't have the puck much, then giving it all away on defence is the 2017 or so Leafs.
I'm not sure Roy is the coach they need, but he likely won't make them worse.
What has Roy done in four games? Well, he's responsible for three of the Islanders' six games with over 60% xG at five-on-five. He was there for the best game this team has played all year by the numbers – the game in Montréal. Because hockey is like that, they lost that one. Although it's fair to say the offence was a little unfocused, there sure was a lot of it.
The surprising problem the Islanders have had, likely aided a lot by the decline in their defence, is that Ilya Sorokin has been essentially a replacement level goalie, and he takes most of the starts.
This is going to be a really fascinating game. The Islanders have speed and skill up front. Auston Matthews happily added Mat Barzal to his ASG team because he fit the team's profile. If Roy can bring them any kind of zone exit and transition game to get them routinely having the puck more – not just against bad teams like the Canadiens – they might get back to the playoff spot that has drifted away from them. They are currently sixth in the wild card race by points percentage.
Adam Pelech is back. And Casey Cizikas might be, the Islanders will decide today.
Stefen Rosner via Daily Faceoff from yesterday's practice.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin - Kyle MacLean - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech - Sebastian Aho
Mike Reilly - Scott Mayfield
Ilya Sorokin - likely starter
The Leafs are back – some of them never left, of course. To catch you up on everyone's injury status:
- Calle Järnkrok broke a finger/knuckle in practice when he was hit by a puck. He is week-to-week.
- David Kämpf has some kind of injury sustained just before the bye week, and the Leafs were sending him for an MRI now they're back. He won't play today.
- Bobby McMann is all better now (he was out on IR so Ryan Reaves could be activated off IR).
- Reaves comes in the lineup by default.
- Joe Woll is very close to returning.
David Alter via Daily Faceoff
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson - Max Domi - Noah Gregor
Bobby McMann - Pontus Holmberg - Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren
Ilya Samsonov - confirmed starter
The Leafs at the ASG looked like they had fun winning and doing well in the skills event. Now it's back to business. This is game 48, and in just over one month the Leafs play game 64 the day after the trade deadline. The January grind came late this year, but it is going to be a hard grind.
The Islanders want their new-coach bounce to bounce them right into the playoffs again, and it's up to the Leafs to let some of the air out of that dream.