The Toronto Maple Leafs are back home and ready to host the Winnipeg Jets for three straight games. The Jets, who recently added Pierre-Luc Dubois, are second in the North Division, but still seven points behind Toronto for the lead. Still, the blue and white are riding the first two-game regulation losing streak of the season. Two games are usually nothing to worry about, but remember this is a shortened season. All the points stay in the division, making any losing streak that much more troublesome.
The Jets are a lot like Toronto. There is a tonne of skill and talent, but inconsistency can pop up at any given time. Just look at Winnipeg’s last week of play. The Jets got shutout by the Vancouver Canucks 4-0, just to bounce back and beat them 5-2. Winnipeg played two games against the Montreal Canadiens, winning one game 4-3 and losing the second 7-1.
Those results sound somewhat familiar to what we have seen out of Toronto. It was an impressive, dominant performance over the Edmonton Oilers, sweeping the three-game series, just to lose two in a row to Vancouver. As we approach the midway point of the season, both teams will use this series to find consistency in their game. Check out the Maple Leafs Lounge for more discussion about this series.
Of note, these teams have only met once this season. It was a 3-1 win for Toronto back on January 18, just the fourth game of the Maple Leafs season. Due to not having any preseason games, those early matchups had characteristics of exhibition hockey. Toronto used the seven-defenseman strategy against Winnipeg for the first time. Both teams were nowhere near as in sync as they are now. This should be an exciting series.
It’s rare to see three netminders suit up for a team in the same week. Jack Campbell shut out Edmonton 4-0. Michael Hutchinson was in net for the next game and won 3-0. Frederik Andersen returned to the net for the final game against Edmonton, winning 6-1. The goalies combined for more than 158 minutes of shutout hockey. Andersen’s return to the net was short due to back-to-back games. Hutchinson got the call for the first game against the Canucks, a 3-1 lose. Andersen returned for the second game in Vancouver and gave up four goals on 31 shots.
Andersen’s stats are becoming more alarming. These stats are looking at goalies with a minimum of five games played. He has a .906 save percentage, which is 31st in the NHL. Andersen is 26th in league with a 2.68 goals-against average. After years of Andersen bailing this team out, it’s becoming more apparent the offence has to put up four-plus goals a game to have a chance at a victory. While Campbell has had an impressive showing this season, he has only played three games. He is not the answer – yet. If he can get healthy and remain healthy, Sheldon Keefe will likely give him more looks.
Vesey Bouncing Back
Jimmy Vesey had his best week since signing with the Maple Leafs. He has three goals in his last three games, five points in his last five games. That’s more than doubled his production from the first 21 games of the season. After starting his tenure with Toronto on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander, he has slid down the lineup, recording less ice time. Now on the fourth line, he seems to have found a spot. Keefe has said Vesey plays his assignments well, so well he has played him during all 26 games so far this season. That said, as Keefe starts to solidify his lines, Vesey may still be the odd man out when Wayne Simmonds returns from injury.
Toronto maintained the top spot in the power ranking last week. However, those rankings were done after impressive showings against Edmonton. If they don’t dominate Winnipeg, they could drop a couple of spots, as the Tampa Bay Lightning are racking up the big wins.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.