How Good Does the Maple Leafs’ Hutchinson Feel Right Now?

This was Michael Hutchinson’s second game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his first game, he gave his team a chance to win; but, in the second game, he made no mistake. Nothing got past him. Only playing because the Maple Leafs had no better option and really no where else to turn, Hutchinson shut out the Vancouver Canucks on home ice 5-0.

A Short Summary of the Game

The result of this game was really never in question. All-star bound Auston Matthews had a goal and two assists, while the other Maple Leafs’ all-star John Tavares also scored. Andreas Johnsson, Trevor Moore, and Igor Ozhiganov added the other three Maple Leaf goals. The Maple Leafs snapped a two-game losing streak on a high note, especially for Hutchinson who grew up hoping one day to play with the Blue and White.

The Canucks were shut out for the third time in its last four games (playing their third game in four nights). They were also playing without star rookie Elias Pettersson after he injured his right knee in Thursday’s 2-0 loss in Montreal. Not that Pettersson would have made that much of a difference tonight, but he does lead all NHL rookies with 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists), which is more than a-point-a-game pace.

Related – Maple Leafs’ 2019: Rielly, Power Rankings & Projected Moves

More About Hutchinson

Hutchinson, who was acquired in a trade from Florida last weekend, made his second consecutive start for Toronto with starter Frederik Andersen (groin) and backup Garret Sparks (concussion) out. He responded by stopping all 28 shots he faced, recording his first shutout in more than two years.

Hutchinson’s last shutout was on Oct. 28, 2016, when he played for the Winnipeg Jets. This shutout was the fourth in his career.

Minnesota Wild Zach Parise Toronto Maple Leafs Michael Hutchinson Nikita Zaitsev
Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise celebrates a goal past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson as Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev looks on. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Hutchinson has always played well against the Canucks. He entered the night 3-1-0, a .935 save percentage, and a 1.77 goals-against average in four career starts against Vancouver – all registered when he played with Winnipeg. He even improved that record tonight.

How happy was Hutchinson? You don’t even have to read between the lines to know his feelings; they were clear: “It’s awesome, it’s an amazing feeling, something you grow up thinking about as a kid and for it to actually happen is hard to put words to.”

Hutchinson, who grew up an hour’s drive from Toronto in Barrie, Ont., like all good goalies, praised the skaters in front of him. “The guys made it about as easy as it comes. We did a great job blocking shots, letting me have time to cover rebounds whenever they were around. We back-checked really hard tonight. The guys played really well in front of me tonight.”

Hutchinson, probably new to many Maple Leaf fans, had played 102 games with Winnipeg between 2013 and 2018 and four games this season with the Panthers before being traded to Toronto as little more than “goaltending depth.” Where he stands with the Maple Leafs is still in question, but his shutout tonight probably, at least, sets him up for more work in the future somewhere, if not in Toronto.

Related: Is Matthews the Best Maple Leafs’ Center Ever?

Maple Leaf After-Game Notes

Matthews scored his 20th goal in the third period. It was his first in six games, but was financially noteworthy. Scoring 20 goals triggered a $212,500 payday as part of the bonus structure of his entry-level contract.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews Columbus Blue Jackets' Anthony Duclair
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews keeps the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets’ Anthony Duclair (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Congratulations to Trevor Moore. His goal tonight was his first NHL goal.

Although the Maple Leafs came into this game with two straight losses, they had won their five previous games and now six of their last eight. Their record now is 27-12-2 at the half-way point in the season.

Andersen, the Maple Leafs’ injured starter reported, after Friday’s practice, that he’s close to returning.

Patrick Marleau, who seems to be setting some personal or NHL record every other game or so, played the 1,616th game of his career tonight. With this game, he passed Larry Murphy and moved into sole possession for ninth all-time in NHL history.

On the other end of the scale, tonight was Mitch Marner’s 200th game. One wonders if someone someday will be recording that he passed Marleau’s record.

Injured Canucks forward Elias Pettersson’s MRI earlier on Saturday revealed only a slight sprain of the MCL, which coach Travis Green noted is “probably as good a news as we could receive.”

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs play host to the powerful Nashville Predators Monday night. There’s no word yet on whether Hutchinson will get another start; but, if I were Maple Leafs’ management, I would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there’s no rush to get Andersen between the pipes when he might not be ready.

It might be fun to see Hutchinson get another start; but, the Predators aren’t the Canucks.

Related: Maple Leafs Lose, but Nylander Scores & Non-All-Star Marner Shines