Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres: 7PM

Watch on: CBC (HNIC)

Opponent’s site: Die By The Blade

The great thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs playing the Buffalo Sabres on home ice tonight after losing to them last night is that they’ll be extra motivated, and out for revenge.

That’s the narrative I’m picking anyways, and I’m sticking to it.

Auston Matthews in particular could use a comeback game, after a shaky performance last night where he also played a career-high 24:48. William Nylander was carrying that line for much of the night, as Matthews seemed to consistently be just a bit off of where he should be (and where he would normally be). He seemed to finally get in sync right at the end of the game, when the Leafs made a final, exciting, but ultimately doomed push to tie the game – unfortunately a bit too late to make a difference in that game, but hopefully portentous of things to come.

Other things that would be nice to see tonight: the Leafs not giving the game away in the second, and more Tavares goals, please. I’ve missed watching those.

And, of course, we have Andersen starting in net on the second half of a back to back, which will finally give us the definitive one game sample to prove whether or not Babcock was right to refuse to ever do exactly this. There’s a lot of reasons that Babcock made this decision (spoilers: it wasn’t just to make everyone on twitter mad, that was just a fun, unintended side-effect!) but even with those reasons, it’s been a frustrating season for watching back to backs. Hutchinson, bless his heart, just isn’t up to the task of playing behind a team that, at the best of times, believes in defence more as a theoretical construct than a strategy that they should actually put into practice. Going into these games with a feeling of doom hasn’t been fun, so the change, even if it’s just for the one game and even if it’s based more on vibes than actual strategy, should make for a nice change of pace.

On a related note, Katya just wrote a piece looking at Babcock’s former strategy of always starting the backup for the SEGABABA, and the strategic reasons for doing so. How about that.

Backups, Babcock and SEGABABAs

With Alexander Kerfoot back from his suspension, the Leafs’ lines are almost certain to shuffle, but there’s been no reports of who exactly will be exiting the lineup in his stead.  Chris Johnson speculated on twitter this morning that Jason Spezza and Nick Shore are likely to be the scratches tonight, so here’s my best guess at the lineup.

Maple Leafs Lines

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - John Tavares - Zach Hyman
Nic Petan - Alexander Kerfoot - Kasperi Kapanen
Pierre Engvall - Frederik Gauthier - Dmytro Timashov
Scratched: Nick Shore - Jason Spezza
Injured: Mitchell Marner, Trevor Moore

Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Tyson Barrie

Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

I’m taking the liberty of assuming that the Buffalo lines will be the same as they were last night (why not, they worked pretty well for them) but we’ll keep you posted if we hear otherwise.

Buffalo Sabres Lines

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Casey Mittelstadt - Marcus Johansson - Jimmy Vesey
Jeff Skinner - Johan Larsson  - Conor Sheary
Zemgus Girgensons - Rasmus Asplund - Colin Miller

Brandon Montour - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian
Marco Scandella - Henri Jokiharju

Carter Hutton
Linus Ullmark

Go Leafs go!