Know Your Enemy: Even a tired Maple Leafs team should probably have no problems with the Coyotes

The Leafs had another game where they dealt with injuries and got caved in by another dominant Western team, only to be rewarded by getting no calls as they came back to tie it and send it to overtime. Thankfully, the Leafs held on this time and got the win in the shootout, and while they now have to deal with the second half of a back-to-back, it’s with a very weak Coyotes team. They’re one of the worst in the league this year, and have a lineup reminiscent of the 2015-16 Leafs, and are more often than not an automatic win. They have a couple things that they aren’t bad at, but it doesn’t mask what the rest of the lineup does, making for what should be an easy matchup for the Leafs.
Note: This is based on projected lines and starters at the time of publishing. Coaches really love to surprise us right before game time, so there’s a solid chance that some of the matchups aren’t accurate for the actual game because of that.
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)

Lineups
Toronto Maple Leafs

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

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

Arizona Coyotes

LW
C
RW
LAWSON CROUSE
JOHAN LARSSON
PHIL KESSEL
ANDREW LADD
TRAVIS BOYD
CLAYTON KELLER
ANTOINE ROUSSEL
RILEY NASH
CHRISTIAN FISCHER
LIAM O’BRIEN
ALEX GALCHENYUK
NICK SCHMALTZ

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
SHAYNE GOSTISBEHERE
DYSIN MAYO
JANIS MOSER
VICTOR SODERSTROM
VLADISLAV KOLYACHONOK
ILYA LYUBUSHKIN

Forwards
As terrible as the Coyotes have been, and as weak as their forward group is, their top line of Lawson Crouse, Johan Larsson, and Phil Kessel have actually been a great combination together, particularly at driving scoring chances with the 50th best xGF% with 63.53%. That may be surprising considering that Kessel has been known for being an all-offensive winger while Crouse has been known for, well, not doing much of anything, but that’s the power of playing with Larsson. He’s a really strong defensive center, although that’s usually come in a bottom six role. He’s been fed to the wolves in Arizona on the top line, not only just by being given top competition, but also having to play with two wingers with no defensive capabilities, and that hasn’t phased him at all, not only making the line passable, but a strong possession top line.
Andrew Ladd, Travis Boyd, and Clayton Keller is another trio that’s worked surprisingly well, since this is the Coyotes and all. They only have a …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Marlies Mailbag: Erik Källgren’s NHL future, Nick Robertson’s return, and the emergence of Bobby McMann

Welcome to another edition of the Toronto Marlies Mailbag!
Looking back at the Marlies season before the break, things didn’t feel right. This team, although with a few injuries, was entering this season with a lot of excitement around them. Toronto was 10-9-1-1 prior to the COVID pause, which saw 24 players get the virus.
Now they’re back, and the team looks different.
What I mean by that is the Marlies look like the team they were supposed to be at the start of the season. Why they look like that now is another question.
“Just that they’re working really hard towards getting better every day,” said Marlies head coach, Greg Moore, on what’s stood out about the team most since the COVID pause. “You’ve seen it in the gameplay trending that way. Their preparation and routine before games and in practice is getting stronger and more consistent, and it’s turning into what we’re seeing in the games. And in return, you’re seeing more confident puck play because of these routines that the guys are building off themselves.”
Since returning from the break, the Marlies are 3-1, most recently beating Utica, the AHL’s best team. It was only the …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs Prospect Roundup: Matthew Knies is back, Marlies trio stepping up, Denis Malgin update

It’s time for another Toronto Maple Leafs prospect roundup! With essentially every league back and underway after various winter breaks, it’s a busy roundup once again after a couple of minimal updates. Matthew Knies is back at the University of Minnesota and did not miss a beat, a trio of prospects with the Marlies had a big week, we’ll catch up with Denis Malgin over in Switzerland, plus lots more news and notes to finish things off.
Matthew Knies | LW | Minnesota (Big 10)
Matthew Knies returned to the Golden Gophers lineup over the weekend following his abbreviated spell with Team USA at the World Juniors. Suiting up for the first time for Minnesota since December 5, Knies picked up right where he left off.
On Friday, Knies recorded two assists, including this primary assist on Minnesota’s third goal of the game.

#LeafsForever prospect Matthew Knies makes a nice move down low and finds Ben Meyers in the slot with a backhand pass for his second of the game: pic.twitter.com/6Fej9TrrwI
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) January 8, 2022

He was good in his return, but it was the follow-up performance on Saturday that really draws the attention. Knies once again scored two assists, but also added seven shots on goal, mixing in a lacrosse goal attempt while he was at it. Saturday’s game from Knies is the exact performance to point to when discussing how exciting of a prospect he’s blossomed into this season.

Matthew Knies steals the puck along the boards and cuts to the high slot before firing a shot that is tipped home by Ben Meyers. Knies’ second assist of the night and his fourth in the last two games.#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/syIG9Z95QG
— Nick Ric …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

The starting rotation? Or the bullpen? Where should Nate Pearson begin next season?

Following another disappointing season, the 2022 campaign is set to serve as a potential career-defining year for pitcher Nate Pearson, whether that be as a starter or a reliever.
Ever since being selected in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Pearson has been viewed as one of the top rising arms within the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system, unfortunately, he’s been unable to deliver on those high expectations thus far.
Sadly, injuries have served as the 25-year-old’s biggest obstacle through his first five professional seasons, limiting him to just 187.0 innings across six levels during that span. In particular, a sports hernia – which required surgery this off-season – plagued the 6’6″ hurler throughout last season, preventing him from completing more than 45 2/3 innings between triple-A and the majors.
While Pearson is expected to be ready for the start of spring training, assuming it doesn’t get delayed, his current role with the organization remains uncertain and will likely need to be determined in the spring, at least, in the short term.
In speaking with the media at the end of the 2021 season, general manager Ross Atkins admitted the front office viewed Pearson as more of an “extended outing arm” heading into …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Timothy Liljegren added to the Maple Leafs COVID protocol

Another day, another COVID setback. While the Leafs have seen some players return, we are now seeing a player that has been in contact with the active roster in practice now join the Protocol list and potentially be the first of another wave of players who weren’t on the protocol heading into Christmas.

The Maple Leafs have placed defenceman Timothy Liljegren into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 29, 2021

Liljegren joins Nylander, Mikheyev, Kampf, Sandin, Mrazek, Rielly, and Muzzin in COVID protocol. So that makes for a pretty disappointing blueline come January 1st, if in fact the Leafs are still playing. We could, of course see additional returns from this list to practice today, and we’ll have those updates later.
The NHL is also trying to find ways of players returning to the lineup sooner. While it seems that the majority of US teams will be benefit from this, Canadian teams will likely need to work with their provinces to get this exception.

NEWS: #NHL has officially shortened isolation period to 5 days with a negative test – IF allowed by local health authorities.#NHL now in line with CDC guidelines, according to memo distributed to teams …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Coming off injury-riddled season, 2022 is a pivotal year for Cavan Biggio

With 2021 nearing an end, 2022 is expected to be another crucial year for the Toronto Blue Jays, especially for someone like Cavan Biggio.

After enjoying a productive 2020 campaign, where the 26-year-old posted a 122 wRC+ score and a 1.3 fWAR rating over 265 plate appearances, Biggio was aiming to build off that success as he entered last season as the club’s everyday third baseman.
Sadly, nothing went according to plan for the 6’2″ versatile infielder, resulting in the worst statistical performance of his young major league career.
Adding to his disappointing 84 wRC+ score and -0.1 fWAR rating, staying on the field also proved to be extremely challenging throughout the 2021 campaign, as Biggio dealt with multiple nagging injuries all year long. Beginning in spring training, the left-hander missed a sizeable chunk of time due to a sprained finger on his right throwing hand.
Shortly after his finger healed, unfortunately, the former fifth-round selection reinjured it nearly a month later against the Kansas City Royals, which saw a hardly-hit ground ball bounce up and strike his right hand. Though this incident didn’t cause him to spend any time on the injured list, he probably would’ve been better off missing some time rather than …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays 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

TLN Trivia: The William Nylander Quiz

 
It’s time for another edition of TLN Trivia, the series that tests your knowledge of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the first TLN Trivia, we looked at the departed 2020/21 Leafs players and where they are playing this season. There were some gimmes, such as Zach Hyman who came in at a 99.1% success rate. But there were some tricky ones as well, such as Ben Hutton who just 25.6% of you got correct.
Today, we’re back on the current Maple Leafs roster, keying in none other than William Nylander.
Nylander’s time has been tumultuous in Toronto, to say the least, but his play in the 2021 playoffs and into the beginning of this 2021/22 season has begun to turn even some of the biggest Nylander haters into fans. So today, we’ve got 15 questions ranging from his junior days through his Leafs career to determine just how much you really know about Willy Styles.
As always, be sure to share your results with us on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below. Please note you may have to scroll back up to see your results. All answers are accurate as of November 26, 2021.
Good luck!

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Tunesday: Guess who’s back? A winning Leafs team

Tunesday: Guess who’s back? A winning Leafs team

Welcome back to another edition of Tunesday, the article that goes along with the Not Enough of Blue playlist! For those of you who are new, Not Enough of Blue is a playlist curated based on the performance of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the past two weeks. Right off the bat, it’s going to be a lot happier this time around. Their performance overall has been next level. They’ve been moving the puck more, creating chances, scoring more goals, the list goes on. With the good vibes going around, let’s get into the music.
 
In our second edition, we have six great songs in store for you. As always feel free to listen while you read. Both the Apple Music and Spotify versions of the playlist will be embedded/linked at the end of this piece. 
 
To sum up the feeling from the beginning of this two-week period we begin with “Send My Love (To Your New Lover) – Adele. Before you ask, yes, it is about losing to Freddie Andersen. In our bones we knew our loss to him was destiny, but it was still painful. Truthfully it can even relate to him not re-signing with …

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Author: Marsha Joseph / The Leafs Nation

Penalty troubles dig Leafs into a deep hole early in 5-2 preseason loss to Habs

Leafs had another strong game at 5 on 5, but a slew of penalties early in the game put the Leafs in an early 2-0 hole that they couldn’t recover from, and they found themselves on the losing end of the scoresheet.
Of course, it’s preseason, so who really cares.
Jack Campbell got the start in net and didn’t look amazing, although you can’t really fault him on any of the goals except for maybe the first one. He was amazing last season, but of course there will be some concern about if he can maintain that for a full season, so it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. The penalty killing didn’t look too hot either, but none of the defensemen are really mainstays on the penalty kill, but it kept up that aggressive play from Saturday and had several chances of their own.
Despite the loss, they were probably the better team, and that’s because a lot of the players had really strong games. Mitch Marner was creating chances like he always does, and his shot looked at least somewhat threatening, which overall is encouraging considering how much scrutiny he got in …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation