The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Auston Matthews makes franchise history, Michael Bunting bouncing back

The Toronto Maple Leafs began their six-game road trip last Saturday in Colorado to take on the Avalanche and I think we all know how that game ended up for Toronto. They took an early 3-0 lead and then a 4-1 lead but then proceeded to blow it and lose 5-4 in overtime. However, at least they grabbed a point on the road in a tough building against a very tough opponent. This week began in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights for the second and last time this season and, just like the game prior, the Maple Leafs grabbed an early lead and then proceeded to blow it. However, they managed to grab the win this time in a shootout and begin their road trip with three out of the possible four points.
They were on a back-to-back and were now on their way to Arizona to play the Coyotes for the first time since November of 2019 – which was Sheldon Keefe’s debut as Head Coach – but, unlike the two prior games, there wasn’t a lot of scoring going on and Toronto ran into Dominik Hasek himself in net as Karel Vajmelka made 4 …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

Know Your Enemy: Another day, another heavily injured opponent in the Blues that the Maple Leafs match up well against

Much like a lot of the teams the Leafs have played lately, they find themselves in a similar narrative playing against a team dealing with a lot of injuries and illnesses. Weird, it’s almost like there’s a pandemic going on right now or something. You’d think that the Blues would be hurt more by losing David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Pavel Buchnevich up front than losing Colton Parayko on the blueline, but the latter actually takes a bigger toll on them. The Blues have a really deep forward group and somehow manage to have a strong top six still despite losing four pieces of it, while defensively losing Parayko exposes a few holes in the lineup. Combine that with the fact that this team is relying on luck to get them as far as they have, and there’s reason for concern as a Blues fan.
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
MITCH MARNER
ALEXANDER KERFOOT
JOHN TAVARES
WILLIAM NYLANDER
ILYA MIKHEYEV
DAVID KAMPF
PIERRE ENGVALL
KYLE CLIFFORD
JA …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Leafs’ Latest: Keefe talks about Marner’s PP problems

The Maple Leafs are getting set for their final game on the road (for a few days) tonight vs. the St. Louis Blues.
Along with Colorado and Vegas, this will be one of Toronto’s toughest tests of their trip. The Blues are currently third in the Central Division, only one point behind the Nashville Predators for first place.
In their last 15 games, St. Louis has gone 10-3-2 outscoring their opponents 53-37 in that span. The Maple Leafs have the same record in their last 15, but have outscored their opponents 66-43.
St. Louis has played exceptional at home, getting a point in their last 13 games. If they get a point tonight, the Blue will tie the second-best record in that category.
One player to watch for the Blues is Jordan Kyrou, who’s scored 19 points (6G, 13A) in his last 15 games.
A few key players who won’t be in St. Louis’ lineup vs. Toronto are Colton Parayko, and Pavel Buchnevich. Both Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko, who were in COVID protocols have completed their five-day isolation.
Blues’ head coach, Craig Berube said on Friday that it’s too early to tell if a few players in COVID protocol will be available tonight vs. Toronto.
Maple Leafs projected lineup vs. the St. Louis Blues
With an optional sk …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

It’s taken both Michael Bunting and Ondřej Kaše to replace Zach Hyman’s for the Leafs

In a coupon-clipping-level effort to save cash, the Maple Leafs made the very difficult decision last season to let their hard-working, offensively capable but defensively responsible, plug in anywhere and have success,  forward, Zach Hyman, go to unrestricted free agency.
He was a key part of their top-6 forward group, playing either alongside Auston Matthews or John Tavares for the majority of his career in Toronto.
It wasn’t 100% certain that Hyman would leave, and Leafs management were in conversation with his agents to the eleventh hour, but they ultimately couldn’t beat the offer from Ken Holland and the Oilers for an average of $5.5M per year for 7 years, with a no-move clause in the first 5 years.
The challenge of replacing Hyman, once they were sure he was leaving, was not an easy one. However, one name seemed almost perfect for the job: Michael Bunting. The Leafs signed Bunting to a 2-year contract worth $950k per season, after his successful first season in the league with Arizona.
Starting simply, Bunting has easily been able to replicate Hyman’s production in a similar role, and even exceed it. So far this season, Bunting is averaging 2.12 primary points (goals and first assists) per 60 minutes of ice time, while last year …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

News from the Rink: Marner, Engvall return to Leafs practice as more players enter COVID protocols

After a day off in Arizona, the Maple Leafs have returned to practice before their game vs. the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Returning to the team today is Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall, who have both in COVID protocols since January 7th. As those two come off the COVID list, the Maple Leafs have unfortunately had to add a few players to it.

The Maple Leafs have placed defenceman Justin Holl, forward Ondrej Kaše and forward Nick Ritchie into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 14, 2022

There were five players remaining on the team who haven’t been placed in protocol, and this is three of them. Justin Holl, Ondrej Kase, and Nick Ritchie will all have to isolate for five days and submit a negative test before returning to the team.
Both Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting are the only Maple Leafs left who haven’t been put into protocols this season.
Losing those three players is a huge blow for Toronto. It seemed like Holl was starting to find his way after a rough start to the season, and it looked like Kaše was a fit on the top line with Matthews and Bunting. It looked like Ritchie was starting to have a bit of success too.
Maple Leafs lines in practice
With Marner and Engvall returning, and a few others in isolation, here’s how the Maple Leafs lines shaped up in practice today.

#Leafs lines at practice Jan. 14/22
Bunting-Matthews-MarnerKerfoot-Tavares-NylanderMikheyev-Kampf-EngvallClifford-Sp …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

‘He lets younger guys be themselves’: How Rich Clune’s leadership is felt throughout the Leafs organization

Seven years after joining the Maple Leafs organization, and Rich Clune is still playing the game he loves.
The bus was getting packed up on Thursday as the Toronto Marlies get set for a six-game US road trip. Clune walked out of the dressing room wearing a Gold’s Gym crewneck and track pants. He had some nice shoes on too.
He greets you with a big smile on his face and a kind “Hello.”
Clune had just gotten off the ice after a 40+ minute practice. The team also had time on the ice after to work on whatever they wanted. The 34-year-old spent it skating from blue line to blue line, back and forth, at some points also receiving pucks from teammate, Joseph Duszak.
He would stop, take a breath, watch what other players were doing, and then go again. There’s always something about players who work on their craft alone after practice. Bobby McMann, who was the captain while playing at Colgate University does the same thing at Marlies practices.
Players like that are doing what they love, while still finding a way to lead by example.
“I grew up in an area of Toronto where we flooded the streets,” Clune said of where his leadership may have come from. “Whether it was …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell are the Leafs All-Stars

If I were to ask you which two Leafs would you most like to see get some rest over the All-Star weekend, you’d probably answer Jack Campbell and Auston Matthews. And to that the NHL will say you’re shit out of luck because…

𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑 𝐀𝐓𝐋𝐀𝐍𝐓𝐈𝐂 𝐃𝐈𝐕𝐈𝐒𝐈𝐎𝐍 𝐀𝐋𝐋-𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐑 𝐂𝐀𝐏𝐓𝐀𝐈𝐍 #NHLAllStar | #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/PCUWnGEzF2
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 13, 2022

Our Souper star! #NHLAllStar | #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/Cgz9b1sSCV
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 13, 2022

Well here we are. And while it’s undoubtedly a feather in Auston’s cap that he won the fan vote in such a deep division to be the team All-Star, and that Jack Campbell now has yet another accomplishment to use against the Leafs as he negotiates his contract this summer, the cynic in me still wishes that more Habs fans showed up for Nick Suzuki and Jake Allen and we could rest the stars instead of sending them off to Vegas for a weekend, especially with Auston still not having tested positive for COVID.
Considering that the Olympics aren’t happening and we don’t need to worry about that ruining the Leafs stars from that, maybe I should take the shut the hell up approach, and shift back to the positives here.
We are celebrating seasons that have Matthews and Campbell in contention for some major awards as well, and have kept the Leafs at the top of the league. They are certainly players deserving of being celebrated and today we’re doing that.
As for the rest of the Atlantic Division lineup, here it is (courtesy of NHL.com)

Atlantic Division (All-Star appearances)
F Drake Batherson, OTT (1st)
F Patrice Bergeron, BOS (3rd)
F Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (2nd)
F Dylan Larkin, DET (2nd)
F Auston Matthews, TOR (4th)*
F Nick Suzuki, MTL (1st)
D Rasmus Dahlin, BUF (1st)
D Victor Hedman, TBL (3rd)
G Jack Campbell, TOR (1st)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (4th)
Presumably players like William Nylander and Morgan Rielly could receive some consideration in the last man in voting, and with just two defensemen on the Atlantic roster it seems like we are a collision course with Rielly being the selection, although I don’t doubt Detroit will show up for Seider as well, and again (somewhat cynically) we are going to see players opt out or have convenient injuries before the game is played.
It does seem silly that we are looking at a lineup that includes Nick Suzuki, Dylan Larkin, and Drake Batherson, but not Steven Stamkos, Brad Marchand, or David Pastrnak, so the Atlantic has plenty of places to go.
The All-Star game will be played on February 5th. …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Nick Abruzzese and Matthew Knies officially named to Team USA’s Olympic roster

It’s officially official. Maple Leafs’ prospects Matthew Knies and Nick Abruzzese are headed to Beijing for the 2022 Olympics with Team USA.

Introducing the 25 men headed to Beijing! #WinterOlympics | @TeamUSA
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) January 13, 2022

The two Toronto prospects join 13 other NCAA players on the United States Olympic team. Knies, who’s playing in his first year at the University of Minnesota is averaging a point per game this season (20P in 20GP). The 19-year-old was picked in the second round, 57th overall, in the 2021 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs.
Abruzzese missed all of last season rehabbing from hip surgery. This season, he’s returned with a bang, scoring 21 points in 13 games (5G, 16A). The 22-year-old was drafted by the Maple Leafs at 124th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs shooting by the numbers

It’s 34 games into the Leafs season. Well actually it’s 35 games in, because the Leafs played the Coyotes after I wrote this, and but for the purpose of what you are about to read, 34 games have been played. With that comes some pretty established trends in regards to how things are going for the Leafs this season.
When it comes to how the Leafs have been shooting this year, they’ve been sitting at 10%, combined with their team save percentage, they have a PDO of 102.2. When it comes to how they’ve been scoring, they’ve been scoring slightly above expected. The Leafs has a G/60 of 3.35, and a xG/60 of 3.27, so they are outscoring what was expected.
Here’s the breakdown of how the individual Leaf shooters have been performing by scoring and shot metrics.
Player
Position
GP
TOI/GP
Goals/60
ixG/60
Goals vs. Expected/60
Ilya Mikheyev
R
5
15.91
3.02
1.20
1.82
Auston Matthews
C
31
20.68
2.15
1.47
0.68
Jason Spezza
C
30
11.76
1.19
0.71
0.48
William Nylander
R
34
18.86
1.50
1.16
0.34
TJ Brodie
D
34
20.55
0.26
0.09
0.17
Justin Holl
D
28
20.57
0.10
0.07
0.03
Morgan Rielly
D
34
23.98
0.29
0.28
0.01
Alexander Kerfoot
C
34
15.56
0.68
0.68
0.00
Ondrej Kase
R
29
14.31
1.16
1.17
-0.01
Travis Dermott
D
23
14.53
0.18
0.19
-0.01
David Kampf
C
34
14.73
0.48
0.52
-0.04
Jake Muzzin
D
33
21.43
0.08
0.13
-0.05
John Tavares
C
33
18.52
1.37
1.45
-0.08
Mitchell Marner
R
26
20.78
0.67
0.80
-0.13
Kyle Clifford
L
8
8.31
0.00
0.18
-0.18
Timothy Liljegren
D
19
15.99
0.00
0.19
-0.19
Rasmus Sandin
D
29
16.27
0.00
0.20
-0.20
Pierre Engvall
L
32
13.01
0.58
0.79
-0.21
Michael Bunting
L
34
15.05
0.82
1.06
-0.24
Wayne Simmonds
R
33
9.97
0.73
1.04
-0.31
Nick Ritchie
L
32
12.08
0.31
0.88
-0.57
When it comes to outscoring what is expected of them, it’s probably no surprise that Ilya “4 goals in 5 games” Mikheyev is leading the pack. It’s also not much of a surprise that players like Matthews and Nylander are also outperforming their expected numbers, and Brodie, well, the bar was set pretty low for him and his recent goal scoring hot streak would absolutely throw his numbers into a flux.
On the other side of things, Tavares has had some modest struggles, but that’s nothing compared to the incredibly rough year that Nick Ritchie has been facing, although when you look at Bunting, Simmonds, and Ritchie all being at the bottom of the list, it’s important to note that net front opportunities are going to have a significantly higher expected goal total.
When it comes to shooting frequency, one of the biggest surprises again has to be Ilya Mikheyev. Mikheyev seems determined to establish that he has an offensive side to his game, and he’s clearly been shooting a lot more.
Before looking at the table, here’s the breakdown of what the average shots/60 are for the Leafs and by position on the Leafs:
Average Shots per 60: 6.99
Forwards Average Shots per 60: 8.80
Defense Average Shots per 60: 3.36
Player
Position
GP
TOI/GP
Shots/60
iCF/60
Shots on net %
Ilya Mikheyev
R
5
15.91
14.33
16.59
86.38
Auston Matthews
C
31
20.68
12.91
22.74
56.77
Ondrej Kase
R
29
14.31
11.57
18.51
62.51
William Nylander
R
34
18.86
11.04
18.72
58.97
John Tavares
C
33
18.52
10.11
16.79
60.21
Pierre Engvall
L
32
13.01
9.23
15.86
58.20
Wayne Simmonds
R
33
9.97
9.12
13.31
68.52
Michael Bunting
L
34
15.05
7.97
14.19
56.17
Jason Spezza
C
30
11.76
7.83
15.82
49.49
Nick Ritchie
L
32
12.08
7.45
12.58
59.22
Mitchell Marner
R
26
20.78
6.99
15.21
45.96
Morgan Rielly
D
34
23.98
6.55
11.11
58.96
Alexander Kerfoot
C
34
15.56
5.90
9.53
61.91
David Kampf
C
34
14.73
4.91
8.27
59.37
Timothy Liljegren
D
19
15.99
4.74
10.27
46.15
Jake Muzzin
D
33
21.43
3.48
8.83
39.41
Travis Dermott
D
23
14.53
3.23
7.00
46.14
Rasmus Sandin
D
29
16.27
3.05
9.41
32.41
Kyle Clifford
L
8
8.31
2.71
7.22
37.53
Justin Holl
D
28
20.57
1.88
4.06
46.31
TJ Brodie
D
34
20.55
1.72
5.15
33.40
So Mitch Marner is the Leafs average, but he’s been shooting less than other Leafs forwards. N …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

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