Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is back tonight when our beloved team faces off against the Montreal Canadiens in a scrimmage.
Although it’s not official, this will be the first Toronto Maple Leafs game we’ll get to watch in over four months.
It would be nice to see the Leafs win tonight against their rival Canadiens, but regardless of the outcome, it’s great to be able to watch our favourite team in action again.
There are a number of questions about this current roster and what they’re going to look like when they start play on August 2 against Columbus.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Canadiens
After reviewing the Leafs roster for tonight’s game below, it looks like some of those questions may be answered.
As we can see above, the Leafs have the ability to dress 13 forwards, seven defenseman and two goaltenders tonight. It’s unsure whether or not Jack Campbell will actually play, but I’d expect him to play at least one period.
After looking at which forwards will be playing tonight, there aren’t too many question marks or surprises. Assuming the forwards stay similar to what we saw in practice in yesterday, the line combinations should look like this:
Line #1: William Nylander – Auston Matthews – Zach Hyman
Line #2: Ilya Mikheyev – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Line #3: Nick Robertson – Alex Kerfoot – Kasperi Kapanen
Line #4: Kyle Clifford – Pierre Engvall/Frederick Gauthier – Jason Spezza
Of the 15 forwards who made the Phase 4 roster, only Denis Malgin and Nic Petan will not be playing. That’s not surprising as both players were clearly the 14th and 15th best forward.
The biggest story-line I’ll be looking at tonight will be Nick Robertson and Ilya Mikheyev.
Like many Leafs fans, I am so excited to see what Robertson can do at the NHL level and I really hope he gets big power-play minutes. With a four-forward power-play unit, it would be great to see what Robertson can do with open-ice on the wing with either Jon Tavares or Auston Matthews, but more importantly, it would be a huge step if he can make a difference 5v5.
As for Mikheyev, we haven’t seen him play since he was injured in December, so I’m very intrigued so see if he can start where he left off, after having a great start to the regular season.
After playing at high-level to start the season, I wouldn’t be shocked if he scored tonight, paired up beside Tavares and Marner.
Questions About The Defense
With the ability to dress seven defenseman tonight, the Leafs defensive-core will most likely look like this:
Pairing #1: Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Pairing #2: Morgan Rielly – Cody Ceci
Pairing #3: Travis Dermott – Tyson Barrie/Martin Marincin
The biggest shock to this roster is that Rasmus Sandin will NOT be playing tonight.
Although it’s only a scrimmage and doesn’t mean anything, it would have been great to see Sandin play tonight. We already know the type of defenseman that Marincin is, so it would have been nice to see Sandin with a healthy line-up instead.
Marincin is a tall defenseman with a long-stick who isn’t the greatest skater and is never going to contribute offensively. The reasoning not to play Sandin must be because the team has enough offensive options in Rielly, Dermott and Barrie, although I think Sandin is a better option than Ceci or Marincin.
Since this is the only scrimmage the Toronto Maple Leafs will play before facing Columbus, it feels like if you’re not playing in this game tonight, you’re not going to be playing in the play-in match-up, so it’s looking less likely that Sandin will play this post-season, unless there’s an injury.
Therefore, I would have loved to see him in the line-up tonight, but also understand that he’s probably not going to be the difference-maker in winning a series.
Win or lose, I’m incredibly excited to watch the Leafs play the Canadiens tonight, even if the game is sloppy. Just for fun, I’ll end this with a prediction: Leafs win 6-4.