As of today, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning are both playoff-bound teams from the Atlantic Division. Toronto has played one fewer game than Tampa Bay and currently sits at 100 points with a record of 45-21-10. The Lightning has 96 points with a record of 45-26-6 in 77 games.
It’s interesting to look at the numbers these two teams have generated. The Maple Leafs have scored 258 goals this season while allowing 211. On the other hand, the Lightning have scored 267 goals and allowed 231. Does that mean that the Lighting’s offence is better than the Maple Leafs? Is the Maple Leafs’ defense better than the Lightings?
Latest News & Highlight
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the concerns with the team as it moves forward toward the postseason. I’ll also share some player news emerging from the team as it prepares to play the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight.
Item One: Two Potential Concerns for the Maple Leafs
First, Matt Murray’s injury could be a concern. The good news today is that he is reported as day-to-day. However, any injury to a starting goalie could be a concern for a team, especially as the playoffs approach. Joseph Woll has been called up to the team as Murray’s replacement.
Related: 7 Things About Roberto Luongo
Another concern was with the Detroit Red Wings game. The Maple Leafs generated shots but couldn’t pull out the win. There are two assumptions Maple Leafs’ fans might make. First, the game was a one-off where the Red Wings’ goalie got hot. Second, it was just another of those nights when the Maple Leafs struggled against a weaker team.
It’s ironic, I guess that, once the postseason begins, the Maple Leafs won’t be facing any weaker teams.
Item Two: Can Michael Bunting Reshape His Narrative?
A third area of concern for the Maple Leafs that lifted its head during the Red Wings game was the relationship Michael Bunting seems to have with the officiating. During that game, he was roughed up a bunch by Red Wings’ players but didn’t get the benefit of penalties. In fact, he was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
Bunting’s reputation as an agitator might be starting to work against him. While his contributions as a physical forward are valuable, the concern is that he won’t be able to change the narrative he has created with officials. If that narrative continues into the postseason, will he be able to avoid taking unnecessary penalties that could cost his team in crucial moments?
Perhaps he needs to give his yappy demeanor and stick-kicking show a rest for the next while.
Item Three: Ilya Samsonov Is Having a Strong Season
Currently, Ilya Samsonov has a record of 25-10-4 and is tied for the 10th most wins in the league. However, he’s played seven fewer games than any other goalie in the top 10. His 2.41 goals-against average is the sixth-best amongst goalies with 30 or more games played, and his 0.915 save percentage puts him in the 10th spot in the NHL.
Samsonov also has four shutouts on the season. He’s been a solid and a positive addition to the team.
Item Four: Joseph Woll Recalled from Marlies
Joseph Woll was recalled from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Toronto Marlies earlier today. The move coincides with the news that Murray won’t be available for tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets.
According to David Alter of Sports Illustrated, Woll won’t wait long for his first start. He was the first goalie to exit the ice at today’s practice, indicating that he’ll start in the net against Columbus. Woll will aim to extend his three-game winning streak in this game. He has already matched his previous season’s games played (four) and win totals (three) and has the opportunity to set new career highs against the Blue Jackets.
Woll’s play at the NHL level has been strong. In the games he’s played with the Maple Leafs this season, he has by far the best numbers on the team. He has a 3-1-0 record, with a goals-against average of 2.03 and a save percentage is .934. He’s only allowed eight goals in 121 shots.
Item Five: Mitch Marner Practiced Today
Mitch Marner returned to practice earlier today. He had missed the team’s previous game due to load management. After the Red Wings’ game, I feared there might be more than just bumps and bruises because he didn’t play his full shifts in the third period. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Item Six: Radim Zohorna Moved Down to Marlies
Radim Zohorna was demoted to AHL Marlies earlier today. He had played in only two games for the Maple Leafs this season; however, he had also scored a goal while averaging 9:12 of ice time. I would guess that the organization was happy with what they saw in his limited time with the team. He could be part of next season’s plan.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs’
The Maple Leafs will try to finish the last few games of the regular season without further injuries. That said, it’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation. It’s not a bad dilemma to be in, just an interesting one.
The team doesn’t want further injuries and would probably like to continue modified load management; however, they also want to secure the home-ice advantage. That means balancing rest for their key players at the same time as they beat out the Lightning for that second spot.