Toronto Maple Leafs (32-23-14, 16th in NHL) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (45-20-5, 4th in NHL)
Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST
Arena: Air Canada Center
Morning Skate: Mike Babcock
What similarities do you see between the way you guys are building here in Toronto and the way Chicago kind of started on their way up?
Babcock: Well, you hope they’re similarities. I mean, you hope. Q told me the same thing this morning: “You remind us of nine years ago.” But, in the meantime, they’ve won three Cups and they’ve kept it going. They found a way to change out players and their core players have been just so good that they’ve been able to do a good job. Now, I think everybody has a plan. When you have a plan and you keep adjusting that plan and you stick to it, you have an opportunity to do that. But not many teams win three Cups in the period of time they have. Let’s just get better here today.
Is there anything in particular that you’ve seen from the Blackhawks lately with them peeling off a lot of victories here?
Babcock: Well, I just went through their guys’ scoring. I always do the five-game thing. Three guys got more than three points. So, it’s interesting to me that they play defence. Everybody talks about Chicago and how well they score. Yeah, but they play defence. Unbelievable in the neutral zone. Great early takes at their blue line. Great d-zone coverage. That’s why they win championships — because they know how to play without the puck. Over a period of time, they learn the time on the clock and the score. That allows you to make the decisions you make in the game. They’ve done a good job of that.
In that one year you had Marian Hossa in Detroit, what kind of example does he put forward on a daily basis that you’d like to see out of your guys?
Babcock: Well, he’s a star. I don’t know if you watched last game but they did a little thing for him — 1,300 games or something. He was caught low in d-zone coverage and he tracked back and got a turnover at their blue line. Best thief in the league from behind. A few years back, he was the best one-on-one player at spotting the puck into space and blowing by you. He’s got a great release. Great 200-foot player. Plays well with and without it. Loves hockey. Good man. Trains hard. Good person.
Why have you decided to flip Zaitsev and Marchenko?
Babcock: Because we thought it was time.
Is it a different look?
Babcock: Well, the puck was going in the net all the time. So we thought it was time. Probably waited too long. I don’t know if it’s a better pair, but sometimes a change is a good thing.
How are you finding that Morgan is handling the ups and downs this year?
Babcock: Well, I don’t know that there are ups and downs. Just [Andrew Brewer] tells me that the Twitter world tells me there are ups and downs. I don’t live in that world.
Babcock: Correct. But what I would do if I was him is I wouldn’t live in that world. It’s up to him. If it’s going really good, grab the newspaper every day and look at the standings. When it’s not going good, you’re going to beat yourself up. Anybody who really likes their profession and is really good at their profession and is driven is going to beat themselves up on their own without getting people that don’t really know to help.
Do you think that maybe some people forget that he has just turned 23?
Babcock: I don’t know. I think your fan base is supposed to be passionate, right? I think they’re supposed to get to say whatever they want. They pay their money. They take their chances. You have to decide if you want to read it. I think Mo’s a great player. I thought he was a big part of our win the other night. I think he’s one of the best young d-men in the world and we’re pumped to have him.
What sort of development have you seen from Marner when it comes to defensive play and his play without the puck?
Babcock: I actually think Mitch has been good all year with that. At the start of the year he was the best of our young guys with that. I think Mitch is a dynamic player. I think he’ll want to be good tonight. He’ll want to be as good as the other London Knight guy. He’ll be skating. When Mitch skates, he’s good. When he has the puck, he’s good. You’ve got to skate to get the puck.
Statistics courtesy of SportingCharts.com
|Home Winning %||0.667||0.606|
|Away Winning %||0.662||0.514|
|Shootout Winning %||0.75||0.111|
|Goal Differential Per Game||0.49||0.17|
|Shot Differential Per Game||-1.31||-0.33|
|Hits Per Game||14.3||24.1|
|PIM Per Game||7||9.8|
|Opponent PIM Per Game||7.7||10|
|Goals Per Game||2.96||3.04|
|Even Strength Goals Per Game||2.41||2.26|
|Power Play Goals Per Game||0.53||0.71|
|Shots Per Game||30.2||32.4|
|Shots Per Goal||10.2||10.6|
|Team Shooting %||0.098||0.094|
|Power Play %||0.188||0.237|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.47||2.87|
|ES Goals Against Per Game||1.83||2.26|
|PP Goals Against Per Game||0.57||0.54|
|Shots Against Per Game||31.51||32.71|
|Shots Against Per Goal||12.75||11.4|
|Opp. Team Shooting %||0.078||0.088|
|Penalty Kill %||0.779||0.833|
|Goals Against Average||2.45||2.82|
|Opponent Save %||0.902||0.906|
|Opponent Goals Against Average||2.93||3|
- Tyler Bozak: eight points (two goals, six assists) in last seven games
- Mitch Marner: seven points (two goals, five assists) in last seven games
- William Nylander: six points (one goal, five assists) during six-game points streak
- James van Riemsdyk: three points (two goals, one assist) in last three games
- Patrick Kane: 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in last 10 games
- Artemi Panarin: 10 points (four goals, six assists) in last 10 games
- Duncan Keith: three points (one goal, two assists) in last three games
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin – Brian Boyle – Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Rielly – Alexey Marchenko
Jake Gardiner – Nikita Zaitsev
Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak
Starter: Frederik Andersen (Confirmed)
Backup: Curtis McElhinney
Scratched: Ben Smith, Martin Marincin, Josh Leivo, Eric Fehr
Injured: Connor Carrick (upper body)
Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lines
Artemi Panarin – Nick Schmaltz – Patrick Kane
Richard Panik – Jonathan Toews – John Hayden
Ryan Hartman – Marcus Kruger – Tomas Jurco
Andrew Desjardins – Tanner Kero – Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya – Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Starter: Corey Crawford
Backup: Scott Darling
Scratched: Michal Kempny, Dennis Rasmussen, Michal Rozsival
Injured: Artem Anisimov (lower body), Marian Hossa (lower body)