News from the Rink: Kaše set to return, Kerfoot looks to stay hot in Leafs’ top-six

Coming off a disappointing loss in Colorado on Saturday night, the Leafs were on the ice for practice on Monday ahead of a matchup with another tough opponent in the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night. Monday’s skate brought with it some good news as Ondrej Kase was a full participant in practice for the first time in almost a week, signaling his likely return to the lineup against Vegas.

Ondrej Kase wearing a blue practice jersey today, wore inactive grey yesterday.
— David Alter (@dalter) January 10, 2022

He joined the top line alongside Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews as Matthews returned to the ice after he and Jack Campbell were afforded maintenance days on Sunday. Campbell also returned to practice and appears set to make the start in the first half of Toronto’s back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kaše has been quite a find for the Maple Leafs, signing a one-year deal for just $1.25 million after the Bruins decided not to extend him a qualifying offer in the offseason. He has excelled on the third line for most of the season, pairing up with David Kampf to shoulder heavy defensive minutes while still managing to drive offense at an impressive rate. Kaše’s play has earned him a look higher in the lineup with Mitch Marner missing time due to injury and with Marner now in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, Sheldon Keefe is once again trusting the Czech winger with a first line role.
Kaše’s return bumps Alex Kerfoot back down to …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Know Your Enemy: Can a depleted Maple Leafs lineup hold their own at 5v5 against the Avalanche?

A Saturday night matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche is the kind of game you mark on your calendars for, as two of the best teams featuring some of the leagues best forwards and defensemen go head to head. It’s the kind of game many would label a Cup Final preview, even though most Leafs fans don’t know what the second round is at this point in their lives. To make things even more exciting, both teams are coming in on hot streaks, with the Leafs rocking a four game winning streak (albeit split halfway through by a three week break) and the Avs winning eight of their last nine, including three in a row since coming back from their holiday/COVID break. But, with the Leafs down a few players, it certainly makes the task of winning tonight’s game a more difficult one for the Leafs, so how exactly can they match up against a loaded Avs team and exploit them?
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)

Projected Lineups
Toronto Maple Leafs

LW
C
RW
MICHAEL BUNTING
AUSTON MATTHEWS
ALEXANDER KERFOOT
ILYA MIKHEYEV
JOHN TAVARES
WILLIAM NYLANDER
NICK RITCHIE
DAVID KAMPF
JASON SPEZZA
KYLE CLIFFORD
BRETT SENEY
WAYNE SIMMONDS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
MORGAN RIELLY
T.J. BRODIE
JAKE MUZZIN
JUSTIN HOLL
RASMUS SANDIN
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Colorado Avalanche

LW
C
RW
GABRIEL LANDESKOG
NATHAN MACKINNON
MIKKO RANTANEN
ANDRE BURAKOVSKY
NAZEM KADRI
LOGAN O’CONNOR
JT COMPHER
ALEX NEWHOOK
NICOLAS AUBE-KUBEL
KURTIS MACDERMID
TYSON JOST
DARREN HELM

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
DEVON TOEWS
CALE MAKAR
BOWEN BYRAM
SAMUEL GIRARD
ERIK JOHNSON
RYAN MURRAY

Forwards
There’s not a whole lot I can tell you about the Avalanche’s first line that you don’t already know. The trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen have been one of the best lines in the league over the past few years, and there are very few units that can match up with them on a consistent basis. They have the protypical line setup, with your speedy creative playmaker in MacKinnon, goal scoring machine in Rantanen, and the more physical forechecker that steps it up defensively in Landeskog, with all three of them being able to burn you, and are well over a point per game so far this season. From a possession stand point, the line’s weakest link is actually MacKinnon, as he hasn’t quite been the play driver he usually is, and his defense has been pretty mediocre this season as well, but Landeskog and Rantanen make up for it as possession monsters and can shelter MacKinnon a bit so that he can be the skilled maniac that he is. Overall, the line has still had a lot of success this season, with a 59.54% CF% and 58.21% xGF% at even strength, and they’ll be a tough one to contain.
Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, and Logan O’Connor haven’t played together this season, but on paper, it has the makings of a strong second line. Kadri is having a resurgence of a season with 42 points in 27 games this season. It’s already the most points he’s had in a single season with the Avs, and he’s only 20 away from setting a new career high. Burakovsky is an excellent compliment to Kadri’s breakout year, as he’s almost a point per game and can drive offense just as well. While both of them can drive play well, they aren’t great defensively, so that’s what O’Connor brings to the table. With 13 points in 30 games he won’t hurt you offensively, and his defensive game is much better than the other two. O’Connor has been pretty flexible all year and been moved around a lot, so he should be the perfect complementary piece to the one flaw of this second line.
The third line of JT Compher, Alex Newhook, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel is another one of those line combos that we’ve seen in this series that haven’t played quite enough time together, creating some wonky results in their numbers, with just under 13 minutes of ice time and a 43.59% CF% and 58.82% xGF% at 5v5. Newhook is a highly touted first round pick from the 2019 draft in his first full season, and has shown a lot of promise so far with 11 points in 21 games and some strong defensive results, particularly a 55.68% xGF% at 5v5, good for fourth among Avs forwards. He’s in a bit tough tonight, as Compher has some of the worst possession results on the team and Aube-Kubel, while not bad, doesn’t move the needle much, but perhaps this ends up being a nice test of Newhook’s skills without having to put him in the top six when he isn’t ready. Regardless, this is probably the Avs most exploitable line in the top nine.
It’s bad enough for the Leafs that they’re up against a loaded Avs team, but to also be without Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall, who have been a couple of key cogs to their lines this year, makes matchups even tougher tonight. The Leafs have three different line combinations in the top 20 in CF% this year, and four in the top 30 in xGF%, and only one of those does not include one of Engvall or Marner, so they’ll have to go back to the drawing board, experiment and see what sticks. Normally, I’d say go best on best with Auston Matthews and MacKinnon, put David Kämpf’s line up against Kadri’s, and then let John Tavares’ line run amok against the wildcard third line for the Avs, but we don’t really know how the Matthews line will work with Alex Kerfoot on there, how Ilya Mikheyev will look in a top six role, and how Kämpf’s line will not only do without Engvall and Ondřej Kaše, but with Nick Ritchie and Jason Spezza in more elevated roles. Hilariously, all three line combos have under a minute of playing time together, but have 100% CF% and xGF% together. Fun with small sample sizes! But yeah, I think the big thing to look out for at this point then is keeping Kämpf’s line away from the top six, considering his play without Engvall hasn’t always been great this season, otherwise it’s hard to really plan the matchups when we don’t quite know how the Leafs line co …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

With improving health comes salary cap decisions for the Maple Leafs

On Saturday night the Leafs had the luxury of icing a near full lineup, which seems like nothing short of a miracle given the current COVID situation. Jake Muzzin didn’t quite make the cut come game time and Timothy Liljegren remains in protocol until the Oilers game (assuming he’s symptom free). On the forward side of things the Leafs even managed to have Nick Ritchie in the pressbox, certainly a sign that the forward group is ready to roll.
Health is good, but in a salary cap era, there is a minor hiccup. That hiccup is the Leafs can’t afford to keep everyone.

A fully healthy Leafs lineup with Timothy Liljegren out of COVID protocol equals just over $81M, which it’s really a problem until you factor in the retained salary of Phil Kessel. That retained salary pushes Toronto to a $783k overage, and forces some decisions to be made.
The easy short term decision is what we’ll likely see to start, and that will be Toronto taking advantage of the waiver exempt status of both Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin. Ideally both of them would be in the lineup. Ideally both would be on …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Scenes from the gameday skate: Kaše out, Kämpf a game time decision for the Leafs and Reimer in for the Sharks

It’s another late night tonight, so slip on your PJs, brew a pot of coffee and see if the Leafs can go 2 for 2 to start their California roadtrip.

Ondrej Kase is out tonight, per coach Sheldon Keefe
Kirill Semyonov draws in@TSN_Edge
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 26, 2021

It seems like the past 21 games has been an exercise in understanding why Kase has missed so much time in his career. He plays an incredibly reckless style and doesn’t seem to have much regard for his health, at least within the designated hours of gametime. It seems like a good decision to pull him out and let him heal up and probably needs to be load managed to some extent throughout the season.
Semyonov coming in is another chance to get a look at a player who showed a lot of promise in the preseason and has fit with the low event style of play the Leafs are looking for from their third line.

Sheldon Keefe says David Kampf is a game-time decision
He skated again this morning & Kyle Clifford has stayed out late with the scratches so … looking like Kampf will be able to go tonight at SJ@ …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs Kings Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Nov. 19

Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs Kings Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Nov. 19

The Toronto Raptors are a mess right now, as a Thursday night loss to the Jazz underscored the fact that this defense has been a complete sieve over the last few games. The latest Raptors odds don’t seem to be projecting any sort of feel-good win soon on what has become a nightmare road trip. […]
Raptors Game Tonight: Raptors vs Kings Odds, Starting Lineup, Injury Report, Predictions, TV Channel for Nov. 19 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Rielly, Campbell help lead Maple Leafs to a nail-biter win over Rangers

After coming off a shutout win on home ice Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, the Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed the New York Rangers into town for their second meeting of the season within the past month. No lineup changes for the Maple Leafs tonight as Timothy Liljegren sat out for the second straight game and Wayne Simmonds remained in the lineup again after being a healthy scratch Saturday night in Buffalo. Ondrej Kase was also a game-time decision tonight due to him blocking a shot late in the third period on Tuesday night, but he was deemed good enough to play.
The first period was a pretty slow pace for both teams as there were only about four shots combined – three for Toronto and one for new York – almost within the first 10 minutes of the period. However, the Maple Leafs didn’t need to throw a ton of pucks on net early to score their first of the night as Morgan Rielly threw one on the net after a tremendous shift by Simmonds that eventually led to him feeding Rielly for the goal and the Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead.
Both teams opened up the second period basically …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

Travis Dermott, the first pairing defender, has arrived

On Saturday night, the Leafs debuted a new set of defensive pairings, featuring Travis Dermott on the top pairing with newly-extended Morgan Rielly.
As a beneficiary of excellent play to start the season, Dermott seems to have earned this promotion, with his excellent play with Rasmus Sandin.
To honour that occasion, I thought it would be prudent to go over his career’s numbers thus far to get a sense of how good he could be in an expanded role, if it were to continue.
Dermott has played the majority of the last three years, half of the year before that, and the few games so far this year. So, we have about 4 season’s worth of data to work with. Let’s start with the overall picture, with all situations production and even-strength shot attempt stats, from Evolving Hockey:
Player
Season
GP
TOI (all)
G
A1
A2
Points
TOI (EV)
GF%
SF%
FF%
CF%
xGF%
Travis Dermott
17-22
216
3454.98
11
11
26
48
3230.6
55.3
52.59
52.69
53.54
54.45
It’s easy to see that he’s been a positive influence in goal-scoring (Goals For, GF%, a slightly better version of +/-), controlling the shot attempts (Corsi For, CF%), and even better when factoring in the location of those shots ( …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Making sense of the Leafs’ recent drop in attendance

On Monday night, the Leafs played a game against an American team for the first time since Game 5 against the Blue Jackets. It was an exciting affair where they dominated from start to finish and included Auston Matthews’ return, but they were undone in overtime by the Rangers’ star Artemi Panarin.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of that game was the emergence of a new trend to begin this season: the Leafs have yet to record a sellout at Scotiabank Arena.

18,098 at Scotiabank Arena tonight. Maple Leafs yet to sell out a game this season.
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) October 19, 2021

To put into perspective the percentage of tickets sold for the first three games, the Leafs had a 98.3% capacity for their season opener, 96.8% for Saturday’s game, and 96.2% for their most recent contest. By comparison, the majority of American teams have been posting strong attendance numbers while every other Canadian team (with the lone exception being the Canadiens) has not had a sellout crowd.
Upon first glance, this drop in attendance could be a result of a few key factors.
There is the obvious one of the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on and there are several fans who remain hesitant to …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Josh Ho-Sang excited to make the most of his opportunity with the Marlies

Tuesday night was the first day of cuts for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But it was also a moment Josh Ho-Sang could hold onto for a long time. After spending most of the training camp with Toronto on a PTO, the 25-year-old finally signed a contract within the Leafs organization.
Ho-Sang signed an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies on Tuesday night.
“For me, I really wanted to be here.” Ho-Sang said after his first practice with the Marlies. “I have a lot of faith in Kyle Dubas and I have a lot of faith in this organization. To me, obviously playing for the Leafs is extrordinary, but what actually sold me on everything was the people here.“
The 25-year-old has been through a lot. Bouncing around between the AHL and NHL was tough, but then he was sent to Europe. And moving across the world may not have been the easiest either.
Earlier in Leafs camp, he spoke about the coach and GM on Linkopings HC in Sweden and what they did for his career. And now, he’s on a new path, and that’s to get back to the NHL.
“I think since last year, I was …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Matthews undergoes successful wrist surgery, will be unavailable for six weeks

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced last night that Auston Matthews underwent wrist surgery yesterday, which was wholly successful.
This comes after a season of a lingering wrist issue, which caused him to miss two games last season, and was still affecting him when he returned to the lineup.
The surgery will cause Matthews to miss at least six weeks, which brings the timeline right up to training camp, perhaps even missing it. The Leafs have yet to announce the dates for this year’s training camp, but it typically occurs in the mid to late weeks of September, before the season starts in early October. This year’s season will start a little later than normal, on October 13th. Surely, Matthews is expected to be ready in time for that.
The decision to perform the surgery now is certainly a curious one, when the issue was already there and well known last season. However, in the Leafs’ announcement, they stated that Matthews was experiencing increased discomfort during his off-season on-ice training, and thus decided to take action now, in consultation with specialists and the Maple Leafs’ medical staff.
In the middle of last season, when coach Sheldon Keefe noted that …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation