Toronto Maple Leafs: Alex Barabanov Shines In Second Chance

Toronto Maple Leafs eyeing KHLer Alexander Barabanov (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs eyeing KHLer Alexander Barabanov (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs only took two of four points from the Calgary Flames, despite heavily outplaying them for two straight games.

It may not have been obvious to those only checking out the score, but the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely had their way with the Flames this week, and only the heroics of David Rittich in the Flames net prevented a couple of blowouts.

Somehow the Flames were able to prevent the Leafs from scoring on ten straight power-plays, and at one point Rittich made 70 some saves in a row.  In both games the Flames held their own in the first period, then got absolutely crushed.  In the second and third periods of game one, the Leafs had 15 scoring chances to the Flames 5.   In the second and third periods of game two, the Leafs out-chances them 23-12.

Overall, the Leafs had almost 60% of the scoring chances across all six periods and a small bit of overtime.  It was a beatdown, and one of the reasons was Alexander Barabanov, who came back into the lineup after sitting out since February 8th against Vancouver.

He did not disappoint. (stats

Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex Barabanov

In game one, Barabanov played 11:13, fifth among Leafs forwards and the team posted a 71% puck-possession rating when he was on the ice.   He also had three shots and rang a fourth off the crossbar.  It was the best we’ve seen of him so far.

He spent most of the night with William Nylander and they had 14 shot-attempts for and five against.

In game two, Barbanov only got about nine minutes, but he made the most of them.  The Leafs had the puck for 83% of the time, while getting six scoring chances and allowing just one.  That is extremely good.

The Toronto Maple Leafs of course had Zach Hyman back for the second game, so Barabanov was not with Nylander, and was instead on the fourth line playing with Spezza and Boyd.

What I really liked was that even despite the demotion, he just kept the momentum going and had another awesome game.  I am starting to really like this player, he’s got a ton of talent and isn’t shy about taking a risky but high value chance to try and score.

You have to assume that a fully healthy Leafs lineup, whatever the lines, features the Big Four, Hyman, Thornton, Mikheyev and Kerfoot.  So far, Wayne Simmonds and Pierre Engvall are probably the lead candidates for the last spot in the top-nine, but these last two games from Barabanov should get him some consideration for the role.

Mikheyev and Kerfoot are defensive specialists and I don’t think the slow Simmonds is a fit for that kind of line.   In my opinion, both Barabanov and Engvall have the defensive chops to play there, in that role.  But Barabanov has more offensive upside than Engvall, so I’d like to see him lock down that spot.

Next. The Brilliance of the Leafs Most Recent Trade. dark

For now it’s a bit of a longshot, as the Toronto Maple Leafs have an absolute ton of high quality bottom-of-the-lineup players.  One thing we know for sure: Alex Barabanov earned himself some more ice time these last two games.