It’s hard to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie situation is in turmoil when your newly-acquired third-stringer just threw a 5-0 white-washing on the Vancouver Canucks and your starter might come back any day. But, there’s instability in the Maple Leafs’ net. Nothing seems normal. Fortunately, the Maple Leafs are too good a team not to keep winning.
Because the goalie situation is day-to-day, with lots of movement and concern, this post will try to share some of the latest news about what is known about the Maple Leafs’ goalie situation.
Michael Hutchinson Will Make His Third Start
In a quick bit of news, Michael Hutchinson will make a third straight start Monday in place of injured goalie starter Frederik Andersen and backup goalie Garret Sparks when the Maple Leafs host the Nashville Predators. Hutchinson’s 5-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night helped, but goaltending is the team’s biggest and most immediate concern. No one is quite sure who will be back, or when that who will return.
In the meantime …
Frederik Andersen Isn’t Rushing a Return
Frederik Andersen has been out for more than two weeks (his last start was Dec. 22). He had hoped the injury would improve over Christmas, but it didn’t. Andersen notes that he has “never dealt with anything groin-related before. When it [didn’t feel great after Christmas], it wasn’t alarming, but it was something to kind of take care of before it got out of hand, and to try and control it and get rid of it before it becomes a bigger problem.”
The Maple Leafs’ medical staffs are handling Andersen’s recovery carefully and with patience. During and after each skating session, he measures how he’s feeling and checks in with the team’s medical staffs for instruction. It’s up and down: the first team practice on Friday was “a hard day,” but Saturday’s skate was “a little easier.” Then Sunday’s skate was hard again.
The medical staffs are measuring soreness, body movement, and flexibility. Andersen notes, “You don’t [want to] push it and maybe jump in a little quicker than you’re ready for.” Andersen has now missed four games, which the Leafs split. Both Sparks and Hutchinson registered a win and a loss.
The Maple Leafs were discussing using Sparks more often than just one of back-to-back games before Andersen went down. “You never know, it could be a blessing in disguise to get a little rest,” Andersen said.
Garret Sparks Is Feeling Like Himself Again
Sparks, meanwhile, did light workouts with the team after suffering a concussion in Wednesday’s practice. The concussion happened when Sparks took consecutive, and, we hope, accidental shots off his mask from the same teammate. William Nylander is reported to be the assassin. And, he hasn’t been that accurate recently.
Sparks admitted that the concussion was a result of “cumulative” shots. He did say that, “both [shots] were the same individual. It’s humorous, and it’s not. He (Nylander) feels bad.”
Sparks’ concussion symptoms centered on his not feeling like “himself.” When Sparks talked with reporters, his self-diagnosis was that he just didn’t feel “present.” When those feelings went away – and it took a couple days – he started to feel more like himself and “knew things were improving.” Sparks, who has never had a concussion before, regrets not reporting to the trainers that he was feeling “off” before the second shot hit his mask.
In the meantime, both Andersen and Sparks watch from the dressing room, rooting for their new teammate. In fact, both injured Maple Leaf goalies were waiting to congratulate Hutchinson after his win on Saturday.
Although both Sparks and Hutchinson were in competition as AHL goalies last year, they are teammates this year. Sparks believes Hutchinson has positively influenced his concussion recovery, noting that Hutchinson “shared his experiences with head injuries and what he’s done to come back.”
Kaskisuo Yo-Yos Between the Marlies & Maple Leafs
It’s almost like a riddle: what keeps moving and standing still at the same time? For the Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies, the answer is Kasimir Kaskisuo. The Maple Leafs reassigned Kaskisuo to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on Sunday after he backed up Michael Hutchinson on Saturday. However, Kaskisuo will be recalled on Monday as Hutchinson’s backup.
Obviously, moving Kaskisuo back to the Marlies was to give him time in net, because he played Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Checkers. Ironically, after the Maple Leafs beat the Canucks 5-0 on Saturday, the Marlies lost by the same score on Sunday, with Kaskisuo being in net for all five Checkers’ goals.
All the ups-and-downs between the Maple Leafs and the Marlies would be more confusing were it not that both teams practice at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence in Etobicoke. Fortunately, the Maple Leafs and the Marlies are close enough that a move “up-or-down” isn’t really that physically difficult.
Starting on Monday, over the next week the Maple Leafs play three games at home with a quick trip to New Jersey thrown in. The Nashville Predators are tough, and will be a difficult game for Hutchinson. Another shutout would be great: is it possible?
I am looking forward to the Boston Bruins’ game on Jan. 14. There’s something about the Bruins; they seem to have the Maple Leafs’ number. It should be an interesting homestand, with the goalie situation up in the air. It’s an interesting time to be a Maple Leafs’ fan.