Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the hunt for their fourth consecutive victory as they conclude their road trip with a matchup against the Nashville Predators this Saturday. Thus far, the road trip has been highly successful, and the team has put up a 3-1-0 record. 

In their latest game against the previously unbeaten Dallas Stars, the Maple Leafs rode good team defense and Joseph Woll’s solid play in the net to an efficient 4-1 win. It was the team’s fifth win in seven games. This season’s strong start gives the Maple Leafs an October record in the win column, which has not happened in several seasons. Usually, the team starts the season slowly, for some unknown reason.

Latest News & Highlight

In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at where the team is heading into tonight’s game. I’ll also try to keep fans up-to-date with player movements that will impact the game.

Item One: The Usual Suspects Are Leading the Team So Far

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly has had two strong games in a row and is a point-a-game player with seven points (two goals and five assists) in seven games. He’s helped the team get out to a first-period lead, which has been a factor in the team’s improved starts. Not having to play catch-up is key to the team’s recent success.

Related: Top 15 NHL Power Forwards

Offensively, William Nylander and team captain John Tavares have been driving the team’s performance. Both players are tied for the team lead with 11 points, which also positions them among the NHL’s top 10. Heading into Saturday’s game, both second-line stalwarts boast seven-game, season-long point streaks. Nylander has scored five goals and added six assists. Tavares has scored four goals and seven assists in his own seven-game point streak.

Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Timothy Liljegren celebrate a goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Auston Matthews is the leading goal scorer for the Maple Leafs, with seven goals so far. However, his goal-scoring has slowed down (how could it not?) since he opened the season with consecutive hat tricks.

Item Two: Look for Ilya Samsonov to Have a Good Game

Ilya Samsonov will get the start for the Maple Leafs tonight. He’ll try to keep up with his goalie partner Joseph Woll. Woll has strung together three strong performances in his last three outings.

Samsonov served as backup for the previous two games, having been pulled from a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 21. In that game, the Russian goalie gave up three goals on just four shots. If you are interested in the stats on that, they would be a horrifying 13.85 goals-against average (GAA) and a .250 save percentage. 

Related: Maple Leafs Roster Could Look Completely Different in 2 Seasons

If Samsonov isn’t to be rendered an afterthought in the team’s plans, he needs to regain his form quickly. That said, it might be too late to hang onto his place as the primary goalie in the Maple Leafs’ system. I look for him to have a solid game tonight.

Item Three: Jake McCabe’s Injury Moves William Lagesson to Big Club

After sustaining an injury after only 10 seconds in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Dallas, it still isn’t clear what the extent of Jake McCabe’s injury is. That also makes his recovery timeline unclear. 

To cover for McCabe, the Maple Leafs have called up William Lagesson to join the roster. Lagesson has shown promise with an assist in five American Hockey League (AHL) games for the Toronto Marlies this season. This 27-year-old defenseman has put up seven assists in his 60 NHL games over his career, mostly with the Edmonton Oilers.

Leafs lines at practice in Nashville

Jarnkrok – Matthews – Marner
Bertuzzi – Tavares – Nylander
Knies – Kampf – Domi
Gregor – Holmberg – Reaves

Rielly – Brodie
Giordano – Liljegren
Lagesson – Klingberg

Woll
Samsonov

Wrap up road trip tomorrow @TSN_Edge

— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 27, 2023

As TSN’s Mark Masters reports, Lagesson will be on the team’s third pairing with John Klingberg tonight.

Item Four: It Was a Great Experience for Fraser Minten, But He’s Back to Juniors

On Friday, Fraser Minten got the news everyone knew was coming. He’ll be heading back to the Western Hockey League (WHL) Kamloops Blazers. Minten had the chance to show his skills in four games for the Maple Leafs early this season; however, he couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity mostly because he just didn’t score. 

Fraser Minten, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Averaging 11 minutes and 26 seconds of ice time for his games, the 19-year-old center was a healthy scratch over the last three games. With Minten now plying his skills in juniors, it looks as if Pontus Holmberg will get a bigger role in the team’s lineup.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

So, looking at where Samsonov is right now, are his early struggles cause for concern? I’m thinking not so much – at least, not yet. What we’ve seen this season is a small sample size. Last season, he was impressive over the entire season and was ranked among the top goalies in the NHL. 

Related: Remembering Maple Leafs’ Goalie Jonathan Bernier

Samsonov’s career stats indicate that he’s a reliable goalie. While his early-season struggles might make fans scratch their heads, history suggests he’ll bounce back. As I noted. I’m hoping that bounceback begins tonight in the Music City.

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