Maple Leafs Injury Update: Who’s Playoff Ready?

The Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the healthiest teams in the NHL this season. So it was only fitting that the Leafs had three injuries in the last two games of the season right before the start of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Leafs sustained a few injuries over the weekend against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily, the Leafs came out of it with enough point to make the playoffs, but their playoff success could be jeopardized. With the Leafs’ first game against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, who will be healthy and ready for the playoffs?

Andersen Set for Game 1

With a win against the Penguins on Saturday, the Leafs clinched a playoff spot. And at the same time, their playoff hopes were already dashed. Frederik Andersen has clearly been the Leafs’ best player all season and is the reason the Leafs are in the postseason. So it was understandable that everyone was extremely worried after Andersen left Saturday’s game with an injury.

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Andersen left the game with what could have been a concussion after Pittsburgh’s Tom Sestito checked Andersen in the head during a play in front of the net. This was worrying, as Andersen has had concussion problems before. The last time this happened was back in March when Andersen was hit in the head and left the game.

Luckily, it wasn’t a concussion as Andersen returned just a few games later. And it seems to be the same this time.

So everyone can relax; Andersen will start Game 1 against the Capitals.

Polak and Zaitsev

So, the good news first. Roman Polak is expected to start Game 1.

He sustained what looked to be a knee injury on Sunday against the Blue Jackets. The play itself didn’t seem too serious as Polak slightly bumped into a Columbus player in front of the Leafs’ net.

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The contact looked harmless, but even something that looks harmless can do a lot of damage to the knee. Polak did return to the game for a shift and to skate around during commercial breaks. So it never looked to be an injury that would keep him out long.

Nikita Zaitsev is a bit more of a concern.

This also happened in Sunday’s game against the Jackets as the clock was ticking down to the last seconds of the first period. Nick Foligno checked Zaitsev into the boards and he appeared to hit his head awkwardly against the boards. He then looked pretty groggy getting to his feet as he headed for the dressing room.

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Management hasn’t said what Zaitsev’s injury is, as is common for the Leafs, but from watching the play and how he got up, it looks like something to do with his head. This will be a big loss for the Leafs’ defense. Zaitsev plays a lot for the Leafs and is used on both the power play and penalty kill.

The Leafs could be at a serious disadvantage in Game 1, as Zaitsev has an edge to his game that’s crucial in the playoffs. He’s second in hits for defenseman behind only Polak and Zaitsev, and also leads the team in blocked shots.

Since Mike Babcock thinks that Zaitsev could be healthy for the weekend, it likely means that his injury isn’t serious or long-term, which is a good sign. Hopefully, Zaitsev will be ready for Saturday’s game.

Injuries are expected during the season and the playoffs as well, but Zaitsev is such a key piece to the Leafs’ blue line that there isn’t any good replacement for him. It will be interesting to see how the Leafs’ defense handles the Capitals without Zaitsev.