Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel, Welcome Back To Toronto

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 11: Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Vegas Golden Knights at PPG Paints Arena on October 11, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 11: Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Vegas Golden Knights at PPG Paints Arena on October 11, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /
facebooktwitterreddit

Tonight, Phil Kessel returns to Toronto to battle his old team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As mentioned in my previous post on Editor in Leaf, Kessel played with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2009-15.

During his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was outstanding in the offensive zone and always delivered when the Maple Leafs were in need of a goal. In the offensive zone, he averaged 1.04 Goals/60 and 1.12 Total Assists/60 throughout his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, acquiring Kessel wasn’t a fun one for most Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Brian Burke, former general manager of the Maple Leafs parted with three high draft picks to land the sniper. With those three picks, the Boston Bruins ended up selecting Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and Dougie Hamilton. While Knight never panned out, Seguin and Hamilton would find many years of success with the Bruins organization and other teams in the NHL.

If we could re-write history, perhaps Burke wouldn’t have made that trade with the Bruins. We’ll never know. Yet, we did acquire an outstanding sniper, who brought joy to many Maple Leafs fans for 6 seasons.

Even though Kessel never helped the Toronto Maple Leafs secure a Stanley Cup, he was still part of the 2012-13 playoff run. In addition, without trading Kessel to Pittsburgh, who knows what would have happened to the Maple Leafs organization. Auston Matthews, Kasperi Kapanen, Frederik Andersen, Mitch Marner and William Nylander might never have come to Toronto.

Pittsburgh’s Lineup

Tonight, Kessel will likely be featured on Pittsburgh’s second line alongside Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin. So far their line has been the most impactful for the Penguins. The trio have combined for 6 goals, 13 assists and 4 power-play points. They will be a handful. In all likelihood, Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey will spend the bulk of their TOI facing this tough line.

In addition, the Penguins top line is no joke. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh’s head coach features Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust on his first line. While the first line hasn’t looked all that great to begin the season, you’d have to assume that any line that features one of the best forwards in the NHL will turn it around.

Aside from the Penguins offense, Matt Murray, who has been sidelined for the past few games will return to the crease tonight. Dejan Kovacevic of DKPittsburghSports.com tweeted out earlier today that Murray will be back on the ice tonight to take on the Maple Leafs.

While Murray hasn’t looked great in his two starts this season, he is a solid goaltender. To this point in his career, he owns a 2.64 GAA and a .915 SV%.

Although, if you compare Murray to Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen, you’ll notice that Murray’s skill-set is no where close to Andersen. In Tyler Kelly of SB Nation’s Pucks and Pitchforks Goalie Tableau visual, you’ll notice that Murray’s Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) is incredibly low when comparing him to Andersen.

Murray is only better than Andersen in two categories. Last season, Murray owned a better High-Danger Save Percentage (HDSv%) and an Expected Save Percentage (xSv%).

Moving past the Penguins’ goal-tending situation, their defensive units haven’t looked great. Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin are the only Penguins defensemen that have a corsi-for percentage (CF%) over 50%.

Toronto’s Lineup

Earlier today, Paul Hendrick of Leafs Nation Network tweeted out the projected lineup for tonight’s game.

The biggest change in the lineup is that Andersen is expected to return back to the crease. Per Sportsnet, Andersen had suffered a “minor knee injury” on Saturday night in Washington.

After discovering the injury, the Maple Leafs relied in Garret Sparks on Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings. While Sparks was quite impressive, the Maple Leafs are much better off against a tough offense with Andersen in net.

Aside from the Maple Leafs goal-tending change, if the Maple Leafs can put pressure on the Penguins defense and Murray then they should be able to secure their seventh victory.

My prediction is that the Maple Leafs will beat the Penguins by a score of 6-3.

Next. Toronto Maple Leafs Top Ten Prospects. dark

In addition, tonight’s game will kick off at approximately 7:05 pm EST. The game can be found on TVAS for anyone who would like to tune into a Quebecois broadcast, TSN-4 in the Greater Toronto Area and AT&T-Sportsnet Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania.

stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, naturalstattrick.com and Tyler Kelly’s Tableau Visuals