Columnist image


| Archive

Other than Michael Hutchinson starting, there will be no line-up changes for Toronto. That means 36-year-old Jason Spezza, who picked up an assist while logging a season-high 12:26 of ice time on Friday against the Sharks, will suit up in consecutive games for the first time this season.

"I told Spezz at the start of the year he's never playing back-to-back," coach Mike Babcock revealed. "I texted him last night and said, 'You want to play tomorrow?' And he said, 'Yes,' obviously. So, that's not our plan for Spezz to play back-to-back, it's just with our situation right now down the middle, we're trying to have the best depth we can and we thought Spezz and his line was alright last night."

Spezza got back in the lineup after John Tavares broke his finger in Washington, but was a healthy scratch Tuesday night in Boston where Nic Petan played.


Auston Matthews took a high hit from Brenden Dillon in the second period last night. There was no penalty on the play and no one confronted the big Sharks defenceman on the ice. Was Babcock happy with the composure or would he have preferred someone to get in Dillon's face? 

"Who's going to do that?"

Point made. 

The Leafs are built for speed and skill, not physicality.

Is William Nylander worried that the lack of a deterrent may lead to him and other top players being targeted? 

"I don't know, to be honest," Nylander said. "I don't know how to answer that question. It's just part of the game, it happens. I don't think that he intentionally tried to take his head off, but they just kind of stepped into each other in the zone. Obviously, it's a dangerous play and coming forward you'd like to see something happen especially a penalty, for sure."

At 6-foot-five, 239 pounds, Frederik Gauthier is one of the bigger players on the Leafs. Does he ever feel pressure to up his physicality? 

"I think everybody has to finish their check," said Gauthier, who has 39 penalty minutes in 139 games. "I use my body as much as I can and that's it."



Last season, Babcock noted that Toronto's toughness was its power play. But even without Dillon getting called, Toronto got five power plays last night and failed to cash in.

"Our power play, in zone, last night was on fire," Babcock said. "We should have had three right at the start, but then our face-offs and our entries weren't good enough, and give San Jose credit, they got good face-off people, they do a good job staying on the line, but there's no sense going up and down the ice getting exercise, it's way more fun to stand in the offensive zone and shoot the puck."

The Leafs are 1-for-12 on the man advantage over the last five games. The Canadiens allowed two power-play goals in each of their last two games and rank 30th overall in penalty killing this season. 


Is Hutchinson (0-2-1, .890 save percentage) feeling any pressure to get his first win of the season tonight? 

"There's always pressure every game, you want to win every game you play," the 29-year-old said. "Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a win yet this year, but I feel that my game's trending in the right direction and I’m giving the team a chance so if you put yourself in this position enough the wins are going to come and once the wins start coming then your numbers come and everything ends up evening out at the end of the year."

Hutchinson stopped 35 of 39 shots on Tuesday night and felt like the performance was a step forward. 

"I felt good in Boston. I felt I was making good reads, I was seeing the puck well, had good depth in the net and was giving myself a chance to make saves. So, it was definitely something I can build off of."



Projected Leafs line-up for Saturday's game: 

Johnsson - Matthews - Nylander 

Mikheyev - Kerfoot - Marner 

Moore - Spezza - Kapanen 

Timashov - Shore - Gauthier 


Rielly - Ceci 

Muzzin - Barrie 

Gravel - Holl


Hutchinson starts