Player-specific iPads helping Leafs prep; 'You can't make a mistake on a set play'
Frederik Andersen has posted an .876 save percentage through four games this season, but the soft-spoken Dane insists his confidence has not been shaken.
"I'd say I spend less time thinking about it than you guys have," he said with a grin. "I think that's all you guys want to talk about, but, yeah, you just got to keep going."
Andersen allowed seven goals on 28 shots before being pulled in the third period Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was only the second time in 369 NHL games (regular season and playoffs) that Andersen has been torched for seven goals. He's not dwelling on it.
"You can't save a goal (after) you let it in on Thursday," Andersen said, "you can't save it in practice the next day, but you prepare for the following game instead of looking back."
Andersen struggled in his first two Octobers as the Leafs starter, but appeared to put that storyline to bed with a .919 save percentage in the opening month last year. However, those previous October issues are clearly on the mind of Mike Babcock.
"He hasn't been known for the start of the year," the Leafs coach said. "The way I look at it, we're all in it together so we got to pick each other up. So, we have to be sound defensively and over a period of time he usually gets himself dialed in and ready to go and feeling better. I don't know why the pattern's like it is, it is and so let's battle."
Babcock pointed out yesterday that his team has improved in a number of defensive categories so far this season.
Andersen, meanwhile, is actually content with where his game's at, in general.
"I felt great," he said of his season, "but it's just sometimes you don't have it and sometimes the other team comes in and plays a little bit better and embarrasses you like that but then, like I said, you have to move on."
The Leafs have a number of new faces on defence with Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci and rookie Rasmus Sandin all still getting settled with their new team and their new goalie.
"It's a growing process, of course," said Andersen, whose errant pass led to the Lightning's seventh goal on Thursday. "I think, it won't happen from Day 1, but we'll get comfortable with each other more and more and we just have to let that process play out."
Both times Andersen allowed seven goals in a game it came against the Lightning and his overall numbers against Tampa Bay aren't great (3-10-1, .871 save percentage). Tonight's match-up is more favourable as Andersen is 7-0-1 with a .918 save percentage in his career against the Red Wings.
Mitch Marner has yet to register a point in five-on-five play this season and admits his chemistry with John Tavares isn't where it was a season ago.
"We haven't clicked as well as we want to yet," Marner said. "We’ve got to get back to basics, make sure we're staying above people, doing things right, not making mistakes and, on the offensive side of it, when we're getting our shots trying to get pucks back and get to the net."
Any theory as to why the connection is off?
"No, no, not really," the 22-year-old said. "I just think the puck's been bouncing, haven't been going our way, stuff like that happens."
Is he feeling off at all?
"No," he said. "It’s going to come so I’m not worried about it."
Both Marner and Tavares have been minus players in each of the last three games, all losses.
After getting torched by Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov on Thursday, the Leafs have done their homework on the Wings' big line. Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi have combined for 10 of Detroit's 14 goals this season.
"They bring kind of every aspect, offensively, defensively," observed Marner. "They’ve got speed on their line, but a lot of grit as well. They aren't afraid to get down low and get in front of your net and bounce those dirty ones in, but all of them can shoot very well. On the defensive side of it, they all have their guys and they all box out hard and it’s going to be a good challenge tonight for us."
Mantha is leading the way for the Wings with six goals.
"He's definitely got some deceptive speed," said Andersen, "and a pretty good shot so (I’ve) got to be ready for him."
Mantha has been on Babcock's radar since he scored 57 goals in 57 regular-season games in his final QMJHL season (2013-14) and then added 24 goals in 24 playoff games with Val d'Or.
"It's taken him some time, but he can flat-out score," Babcock noted. "And then Bert's at the net and plays hard so they’ve got a good line there."
Mantha and Auston Matthews are tied for second in goals this season as only the Edmonton Oilers’ James Neal has more entering Saturday's action.
Matthews has dominated the Wings in his career with 10 goals in 11 games. The only opponents he's scored on more are the Ottawa Senators (12 goals in 13 games) and Montreal Canadiens (12 goals in 12 games).
The Leafs and Wings split their four-game series last season with three of the games going to overtime.
Babcock's depth rotation continues up front tonight with Nick Shore and Dmytro Timashov drawing back in and Jason Spezza and Nic Petan sitting. But on defence, Justin Holl will play a third straight game with Martin Marincin stuck in the press box. It will be Holl's fourth game out of six this year after he played in just 11 of 82 last season.
"He's been off to a pretty good start for us," said Babcock. "I thought he was tentative at the start of last game, but I thought he played well in the game ... good for him. This is what he wanted. He's getting an opportunity right now, you’ve got to seize it."
Holl played 15:28 on Thursday picking up an assist and finishing +2 in the 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Projected Leafs lines for tonight's game: