Nashville Predators @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: SN, NHLN, BSSO
The Leafs last game was on the road on December 7, where they won in regulation 4-3 over the Ottawa Senators. Their record is 13-6-4.
The Predators last played on December 7 at home to Tampa Bay, where they won comprehensively 5-1. Their record is 14-12-0.
Nashville, who are retooled, but not rebuilt, were not expected to be very good this season, and they sit right now two points behind the Leafs – on three more games played, however. That puts them in a wild card spot, as the Leafs are at the moment.
Nashville has a very blah, sub 50% Corsi at five-on-five, almost exactly the same as the Leafs have. The difference is the Predators have an excellent Expected Goals %, while the Leafs stay blah by that measure.
If you need proof that this team is not the old Predators, here it is: the Predators are getting their good Expected Goals ratio by being very good offensively and very mediocre defensively. Their goaltending is very good, which makes up for their main weakness. Their power play is very boring, however.
The controversy in Nashville right now seems to be Tyson Barrie, who has been a healthy scratch, and Luke Schenn, who is playing again. Barrie wants a trade, and the Predators don't like him. Schenn is who he is, and is somehow more palatable.
Given how public this has become, I expect Barrie to sit out again, but the lines are from their last game.
Robby Stanley via Daily Faceoff from the last game
Filip Forsberg - Ryan O'Reilly - Gustav Nyquist
Thomas Novak - Juuso Parssinen - Luke Evangelista
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Cole Smith
Kiefer Sherwood - Michael McCarron - Philip Tomasino
Ryan McDonagh - Roman Josi
Jeremy Lauzon - Dante Fabbro
Spencer Stastney - Luke Schenn
Toronto continues to trot along producing league average results. This is, frankly, astounding, and I will admit to not really being clear on how they can be good enough defensively and bad enough offensively, considering the roster, to land squarely on meh.
The power play is described in-game by however many goals have been scored in a selected number of games, so selected to make them look either bad or good depending on narrative need in the broadcast. This is a TV show, not analysis. Stop expecting better, and you'll live a happier life.
In reality, the power play is extremely good, and they are scoring just a touch under expected.
And now we come to the current anxiety-inducing event. The net belongs to Ilya Samsonov for the foreseeable future. He'll get spelled by Martin Jones. That's just how it is. There's no real trend to Samsonov's starts. Sometimes he is bizarrely not on this planet, sometimes he looks like he did last year. There's no predicting what he will do in the next few weeks or even tonight.
William Lagesson is still out with an illness, so last game's lines are likely to carry through unchanged:
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Nicholas Robertson - Max Domi - Calle Järnkrok
Noah Gregor - David Kämpf - Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
Maxime Lajoie - Conor Timmins
Ilya Samsonov - likely starter
I'll be honest, the Leafs are very much like Samsonov in that I can't see any rhyme or reason to how they play game-in, game-out. I find the "playing down to their opponents" thing very unconvincing because often the opponent is only "down" in a historical or branding sense in the minds of fans. I'm more convinced by the "always take one period off" thing. Although there are two teams on the ice and games ebb and flow fairly often.
What I did notice was the authority and determination with which Auston Matthews played after Woll left the last game. And while that's good, it raises a question about the entire team and how they manage to be so average.
We'll get confirmation on lines at gametime.