Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Predators’ Match-Up, Simmonds & Liljegren

Auston Matthews, Column, News & Rumors, Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs, Wayne Simmonds

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I want to look ahead at Tuesday’s matchup against the Nashville Predators, who come into town as the hottest NHL team over the past ten games. Second, I’ll look at some healthy scratches that are upcoming for the team as Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe works out his lineup.

Related: Michael Bunting Likely Not the Goal Scorer Maple Leafs Fans Hope For

Item One: Comparing the Maple Leafs and the Predators

The Maple Leafs are tied for second as the hottest NHL team over their last 10 games. They are 8-2 in the span, which is the same record as the Vegas Golden Knights and the Carolina Hurricanes. The hottest team will be their competition tomorrow night – the Predators. With this game, the team begins a three-game homestand that ends by playing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. 

Nashville is 8-1-1 in their last 10. Both teams come into Tuesday’s game rested. 

The Predators’ Scoring Statistics

The Predators have three players with at least 16 points in 15 games. Matt Duschene, at 30-years-of-age, has already played 13 years in the NHL. Duschene has found a home for the past four seasons in Nashville after wandering the NHL for a while. He’s scored nine goals and seven assists (for 16 points). His linemate Mikael Granlund, who was rumored to be headed to the Maple Leafs last season at the trade deadline, has three goals and 13 assists (also for 16 points). And, one of the best unknown NHL defensemen (at least in these parts), Roman Josi has scored six goals and added 10 assists (also for 16 points).

Related: John Tavares Choosing Toronto Led to Sharks’ Downfall

These are the only Predators who have double-digit points totals for the team. The next highest scorer is Ryan Johansen who has five goals and four assists (for nine points).

The Maple Leafs’ Scoring Statistics in Comparison

While the Maple Leafs have no one with 16 points, two players have scored 15 points. Captain John Tavares has eight goals and seven assists and William Nylander has seven goals and eight assists. The Maple Leafs have four additional players who have scored 10 or more points. Mitch Marner has scored three goals and 11 assists (for 14 points); Auston Matthews has six goals and six assists (for 12 points); Alex Kerfoot has scored two goals and eight assists (for 10 points); and, Morgan Rielly has scored a single goal and has added nine assists (also for 10 points).

What Can the Maple Leafs Do to Stop the Predators?

If the Maple Leafs can shut down the Predators’ first line of Duschene, Granlund, and Luke Kunin and control the Predator’s first defensive pairing of Josi and Dante Fabbro, they have a good chance of winning this game. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Predators’ goalie Juuse Saros has been dynamite in net this season. Heading into Tuesday’s game, he’s compiled a record of  7-4-1 in 12 games with a save percentage of .927 and goals-against-average of 2.17.  Saros’ success doesn’t appear to be a fluke. In the 35 games he played last season, he compiled a record of 21–11-1 with an identical .927 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 2.28.

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It should be a good test for both teams.

Item Two: What’s the Status of Wayne Simmonds for Tuesday?

Against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, for the first time with the team, Wayne Simmonds found himself sitting in the press box. The fact that he was a healthy scratch shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s had time to show what he can do, but he hasn’t. In fact, during his last nine games, he hasn’t had a point.

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For Saturday’s game, Rasmus Sandin joined Simmonds. As I’ll note in the next item, this seems to fit head coach Sheldon Keefe’s plan to rotate defensemen. During the season, Simmonds only has scored three points (one goal and two assists) in 15 games.

Item Three: Timothy Liljegren Will Sit on Tuesday Night

The word today is that Timothy Liljegren will be a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game against the Predators. Coach Keefe has been rotating his third-pairing defenders lately and it’s simply Liljegren’s turn for the press box. His recent partner, Sandin will jump back into the lineup.

On the season, Liljegren’s generally played well; however, he only has recorded a single assist during the 10 games he’s played this season. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Although there have been rumors that the Maple Leafs are looking to move a defenseman, I’m hoping they keep rotating their third pairing of Liljegren, Sandin, Travis Dermott, and also include Justin Holl. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Engvall No Longer in Keefe’s Good Graces

After Holl sat a few games, he returned with some jump. I also believe that, as long as it works for the salary-cap limits, it’s a good plan to have an extra defenseman with experience chomping at the bit to return to the ice.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]

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