Toronto Maple Leafs @ New York Rangers: Game #37
7:30 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden
TV/Streaming: SN, TNT
Opponent’s Site: Blueshirt Banter
Jake Muzzin has a concussion after a hit he took in Saturday’s game against St. Louis. We have a post delving into the whole situation and extending into what exactly the NHL concussion spotters actually do here. As a result of this indefinite injury, it’s time for Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren to team up on the Leafs’ second pair. Justin Holl is still in COVID protocol and Sheldon Keefe has pretty much decided he doesn’t want Travis Dermott above the third pair.
This will be a test for the two young Swedish defensemen, who have 101 career NHL games between them — 106 if you include Sandin’s five playoff games. Independently, Sandin and Liljegren have both looks pretty good in the top four. Sandin often with TJ Brodie and Liljegren with Muzzin. Now, they only have each other.
I’ve written a lot about Sandin and Liljegren in the AHL, as a pair, and as separate defensemen. I had a long-standing belief that in the AHL they should be separated because Liljegren always looked like the shy younger brother at his popular brother’s party. Liljegren wouldn’t play the puck as much or be as creative. He would sit back and let Sandin do those things. It was very different from him on his own. You want players to show everything they have in the AHL.
However in the NHL, Sandin won’t be able to dominate the puck as much as he did in the AHL, I think that’s fairly reasonable to say. Sandin is going to have to rely on Liljegren to do more of the work, and I think that’s going to help them both with and without the puck in transition and in the offensive zone. I do worry about how they’re going to hold up in the defensive zone, especially if they get stuck with Artemi Panarin, but I guess this is the test.
Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - David Kämpf - Pierre Engvall
Kyle Clifford - Jason Spezza - Wayne Simmonds
OUT: Ondřej Kaše (COVID), Nick Ritchie (scratched)
Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
Travis Dermott - Alex Biega
OUT: Jake Muzzin (injured), Justin Holl (COVID)
Jack Campbell - confirmed starter
Elsewhere in the lineup, it’s good to see Clifford back in the lineup after he missed the third period blocking a shot with either his face or his chest. Alex Biega returns to the lineup on the third pair, and Campbell is the starter.
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Kaapo Kakko
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Filip Chytil
Dryden Hunt - Barclay Goodrow - Julien Gauthier
Greg McKegg - Kevin Rooney - Ryan Reaves
OUT: Alexis Lafreniere (COVID), Morgan Barron (scratched)
Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Patrik Nemeth - Braden Schneider
OUT: Libor Hajek (scratched), Jarred Tinordi (scratched)
Igor Shesterkin - projected starter
I had to do a double take when I saw Panarin on the second line, but you do you, Gerard Gallant. Greg McKegg is the only former Leaf in case you’re thinking of revenge goals (unless some of you count Georgiev because of how much y’all talk about him), but I’m personally more worried about Panarin. In fact, Chris Kreider leads the team in goals with 24 (12 on the power play) and Zibanejad has 14 (seven on the power play). The Rangers have the 10th best power play and third best penalty kill heading into tonight. The Leafs are second and seventh, by the way.
Igor Shesterkin is the goalie for the Rangers, who’s been driving their season with a league-leading .939 save percentage, meaning: if the Leafs want to score their average 3.39 goals per game tonight, they’ll need to take 55 shots on Shesterkin to get it done on volume. Or if Auston Matthews could score a couple goals on national TV in both countries, that would be great!