The Toronto Maple Leafs are riding high after sweeping the New York teams – and shutting them both out in the process – but they’ll get a huge test on Saturday evening, facing the surprisingly resilient Boston Bruins on the road at TD Garden.
PLAYOFF PREVIEW??? MAYBE????
The good news is that Morgan Rielly is back!
Both Rielly and Ron Hainsey have drawn back into the lineup, quickly jettisoning both a new fan favorite from the lineup.
Roman Polak still isn’t on the ice, but it appears that Holl will be absent as well – so some bad news with the good.
Of note: now that the blue line is returning to health, Holl had to be returned to the Toronto Marlies immediately, per the league’s emergency recall rules.
Toronto’s offense unfortunately pales in comparison to Boston’s this year, with Auston Matthews holding the scoring lead with just 40 points. William Nylander has been heating up, though, so expect him to be arguably the biggest threat against Boston’s offensive efforts.
The biggest absence to Boston’s lineup comes on their most productive line, where Brad Marchand will continue to sit out for being an unrepentant shitheel on the ice sometimes. He’s serving a five-game ban earned just ahead of the All-Star Break, leaving Boston without their leading scorer by a mile.
For perspective: Boston is playing their 50th game of the season tonight, and Marchand has only played in 38 games – but it will take a 3-point night for David Pastrnak to pass Marchand in the team’s scoring lead.
It looks like Charlie McAvoy is back for the Bruins tonight, meaning both teams will be potentially getting a bolster on defense – but Kevan Miller may be out, so it’s a wash for the black and gold.
- When addressing Dermott, Babcock had some questionable words on the defenseman. Per Kristen Shilton: “I like his skill set. I don’t like the chances against. There’s two parts to the equation, there’s the skill set…but I go through all the chances every game. When you’re involved in the chances too much, that’s the part he’s got to figure out.” Given the team’s overall defensive structure, it seems questionable that he’s singling out Dermott – particularly given how many chances against Roman Polak allows. But at this point in the Babcock era, it can’t be considered all that surprising, either.
- The loss of Brad Marchand for Boston cannot be understated. He’s got a problem with taking penalties – and with getting himself suspended for stupid moves that every other player in the league manages to avoid, with notable exceptions like Zac Rinaldo – but until his suspension, he had managed to worm his way into the top 15 in league scoring overall with nearly 10 fewer games than everyone else. David Pastrnak is an elite sniper and Patrice Bergeron is in the running for the Selke – again – but without Marchand, their line loses a significant edge.
- Tuukka Rask was one of the league’s worst starting goaltenders through the start of the season, but he’s gotten his groove back. He’s also 15-6-2 all-time against the Leafs, with a .925 save percentage in all situations against them; Expect a goaltending showdown between himself and Frederik Andersen on the other end of the ice.
LGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE PINT