Game #51 – Canucks @ Leafs: 7:00pm (EST)

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Your streaky Leafs are back in action and they’re riding a 4 game win streak.

To start the season the team played a consistent level of hockey and it was enough to launch them into 1st in the North Division by a large margin. Since then it’s been one streak after the next.

From March 4th to 19th the team produced a record of 1-6-0. Then from March 20th to April 10th they set the NHL on fire by going 9-0-1. They went back into losing mode after that, by dropping 5 of 5 games from April 12th to 20th, including back to back losses to the Vancouver Canucks, which happened to be their first games back after being off for 3 weeks due to a COVID19 breakout among the team and coaches.

Which brings us to their current streak and my current concern.

If this team can’t string together more than 10 games without following it up with 5-7 bad ones, how far in the playoffs can we expect them to go? To make it worse, at the moment they’re riding a 4 game high and have 6 games left in the season. Are they set to hit a slump as soon as the playoffs begin? Frederik Andersen is expected to be back for the playoffs and he’s notoriously been a slow starter. If they turn to him to start when he returned, and him having been off for a couple of months, can we expect him to need some games in order to get back up to speed, and if so, will that cost them valuable playoff wins?

Onto the game.

After sitting Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Jack Campbell and Nick Foligno for maintenance days, it appears that they are all back in tonight. Here are the lines at this mornings practice:

Jack Campbell has returned to his early season self. He stumbled for a few games around mid April, but his last 3 wins have been solid ones and he’s making it look easy. With a 14-2-1 record, Andersen has competition for starts for the first time since he’s been in Toronto.

A few quick hits:

Adam Brooks is also challenging players for ice time. He has 3 goals and 4pts in 7 games this year and has really shown himself to be a legitimate NHL player.

He’s definitely showing value right now, even if it is in limited minutes (just under 10 minutes per game). I have him penciled in at 4th line centre to start next season, but maybe that’s looking too far ahead.

Zach Hyman and Riley Nash are skating and are expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs. This team has some depth at the moment that hasn’t really been realized yet. When those guys come back and you have to start sitting players like Adam Brooks and Alex Galchenyuk, you’ll start to see just how deep they are.

Rasmus Sandin isn’t ready to replace Morgan Rielly. He just isn’t. It takes years to develop in this league and Sandin has one huge thing going for him, he’s in an organization where expectations aren’t daunting. Let’s stop debating Rielly vs Sandin and start cheering for the fact that we have them both and both are solid offensive defenders.

Lastly, Timothy Liljegren doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a legitimate prospect in this organization. He’ll be a regular on the Leafs blueline eventually, and with the way they’ve brought him up I believe he’ll prove a lot of people who doubted him wrong.

Enjoy the game.