The Buffalo Sabres will be coming home from a Western road trip to face the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. The Maple Leafs are coming off a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, while the Sabres are coming off two consecutive road wins.
Since acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Friday, the Maple Leafs have split their two games. Between airplane hopping and games, neither player has likely had a chance to practice with their new team yet. However, O’Reilly registered an assist in his Maple Leafs’ debut, and Acciari scored a goal against the Blackhawks.
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Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe attributed Sunday’s loss to fatigue. However, he also admitted that the team didn’t play smart enough to make up for their lack of energy. They overcame a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the third period but ultimately let the game slide away.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the news emerging from the team. I’ll specifically take a look at two Toronto Marlies’ players and how they are doing. Third, I’ll look at how the team’s bottom six has done over the past few games.
Item One: Bobby McMann Has First Career Hat Trick with Marlies
On Sunday evening, the Toronto Marlies beat the Rochester Americans 5-1 in the second of two games between the teams. Bobby McMann is having a great season in the AHL and has even played eight games with the big club.
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The Marlies lost Friday’s game 6-2 but came back to win on Saturday night 5-1 when McMann completed his first professional hat trick. Those three goals gave him 16 in 25 games, including 13 in his last 13 games. By the way, last night, the Marlies beat the Utica Comets 3-1, and, you guessed it, McMann scored another goal.
He now has 17 goals and eight assists (for 25 points) in 26 games. With Adam Gaudette moving to the Blues, McMann is tied for the team lead in goals with 17, along with Logan Shaw and Alex Steeves.
According to Marlies’ head coach Greg Moore, McMann is finding different ways to score and is working on building different “layers” to his game. The 26-year-old is working his tail off to become a full-time NHL player in the near future.
McMann is big and strong, which helps him get early positioning in the crease. He also has great hand-eye coordination, which allows him to score tip-in goals. McMann is one young player to keep an eye on.
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Item Two: Erik Kallgren Was Re-Assigned to the Marlies Yesterday
Erik Kallgren was reassigned to the Marlies on Sunday, according to CapFriendly. Kallgren’s reassignment corresponded with the return of Ilya Samsonov to the Maple Leafs’ lineup after a couple of days away with an illness.
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The 26-year-old Kallgren has played in 10 games for the Maple Leafs this season, with a goals-against-average of 2.67 and a .898 save percentage. With Joseph Woll staying with the big club and Matt Murray on the shelf, Kallgren will likely go back to sharing Marlies’ games with Keith Petruzzelli.
With Erik Kallgren Gone, Keith Petruzzelli Has Stood Tall
Petruzzelli had a strong game on Saturday, making 26 saves on 27 shots. Last night, he had an even better one against the Comets, stopping 33 of 34 shots on net. On the season, he has a 12-5-0 record with a goals-against-average of 2.92 and a save percentage of .904.
The Marlies’ goalie situation is a bit like musical chairs, but it seems to be working. Moore admitted that Petruzzelli will get moved back when either Kallgren or Joseph Woll returns. However, he has a strong work ethic off the ice and in the weight room and is known for his positive mindset and stellar personality.
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Moore described Petruzzelli as a “chill guy” who brings consistent energy, which allows him to step in and play well when he’s needed.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The fourth line of Alex Kerfoot, Zach Aston-Reese, and Noel Acciari had an outstanding game against the Blackhawks in Chicago. The three were the only Toronto players not on the ice for a goal against, and they have played well for two consecutive games.
On the other hand, the third line of David Kampf, Pierre Engvall, and Calle Jarnkrok had a poor game in Chicago. Statistically, they were the worst line for the Maple Leafs. They did not generate shots and were on the ice for several Blackhawks scoring chances. However, in their previous game against the Montreal Canadiens, they were Toronto’s best line.
My sense is that the bottom six are a work in progress, but Keefe should keep the fourth line together because it’s been consistently good, which means that there’s nothing to do – for now – but keep the third line together. That is unless there’s some thought of moving O’Reilly to the third line. Fans will get a chance to see how those coaching decisions are morphing tonight in Buffalo.