May 29, 2023
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Winnipeg Jets

Toronto Maple Leafs at Winnipeg Jets – Game #6 Preview, Projected Lines & TV Info

After a thrilling overtime win over the Dallas Stars, scored by two goals from Nick Robertson, including the game-winner, the Maple Leafs roll into Winnipeg for a head-to-head with the Jets on Hockey Night Canada (7 p.m p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

An E-Season debut from Nick Robertson and a notch in the Victory Column gave everyone a sigh of relief after a tense few days in the Toronto market. After the Leafs found a way to win three games by going 3-2, the Leafs are hoping a team bond down the road can help them settle into their season and find their rhythm offensively, especially for the top- The line, by their standards, has remained quiet through the first five games.

The road trip begins in Winnipeg against a Jets team that has alternated wins and losses in four games. After winning their home game, they had a brief three-game road trip that began with a loss in Dallas, an overtime win in Colorado and a loss in Vegas on Thursday. The Jets have already dealt a serious blow to their forward core when Nikolaj Ehlers was placed on IR after missing the last two games. As a result, Mason Appleton was promoted to the helm alongside Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor.

The X-factor is the same as in recent years of largely mediocre hockey in Winnipeg: Connor Hellebuyck. Everyone knows the star netminder well by now, and the first period against the Golden Knights showed just how vulnerable the Jets can be without their bolt between the hoops.

On the Leafs side, while they may not have the elite goaltender option, Ilya Samsonov quickly earned his side’s confidence by playing consistently (all 3-2 wins) in the three games he started. He wasn’t unworldly – of the six goals he allowed, he’d want some of those back – but he was good enough for a team that should be able to score enough goals and suppress shots well enough to to win with good enough goalkeeping (The Leafs have averaged just over 25 shots per game so far).

Toronto are making some changes to the pre-Samsonov lineup. Sheldon Keefe gives the bottom six a retool: Zach Aston-Reese joins Alex Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkork, while Pierre Engvall and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (both pointless on five points whose minutes have dropped sharply in recent games) take their places experienced grinders Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds.

This is likely to be as much a matchup-based decision as it is performance-based or messaging (in Engvall’s case) as the history between these teams, stretching back to the Canadian division, particularly in this building, is undoubtedly a factor at play here . On a recent visit to Canada Life Centre, the aftermath of the carnage included a suspension for Jason Spezza, an injury to Rasmus Sandin and Mark Scheifele’s infamous quote, “Is there anything better than beating the Leafs?”

In Engvall’s case, he paid $2.25 million because he wants to be consistent enough in what he brings in night after night not to end up as a healthy scratch at any point. That means he missed training camp, and there’s a story of Sheldon Keefe using the carrot-and-stick approach with the great Swede. He contributed somewhat in the penalty shootout but the sloppy five-a-side game tonight earned him a look from above.

Buckle up for a HNIC rivalry game in Winnipeg with a supercharged split-crowd atmosphere and the Heavys on the fourth line of the Leafs.


Game day quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the decision to call Kyle Clifford back and put him on the fourth line:

It gives us a different look on the fourth line. It gives us the opportunity to include Cliff and Simmer in our group. It’s a good time for that.

Both guys bring us a lot of energy both on the bench and on the ice. When we get into this road trip, we could use that.

Keefe on the history of heated rivalries against the Jets:

It looks like there might be some left over from the Canadian league where we played it 10 times or so. It’s also just two competitive, highly skilled teams that have had many back-and-forth games against each other.

There’s a new coaching staff at Winnipeg, but I think a lot of those elements would stay. From our side I think it just serves to give us a different look. We have the ability to use our depth to change the look of our team—especially the depth of our team.

Heading into the season and through camp, I figured we’d do this at different times when we felt that with a little more veteran presence on our team, we could use a little lift and a little more energy.

Keefe on the team’s fourth line results so far:

The results were not what I had hoped. However, the deck was very heavily stacked against them – and that’s by design. Expecting them to get good results or great results given how badly I buried them in the defensive zone and the types of matchups they’ve had… I mean, they started in the defensive zone more than anyone else in the league and played against some of the tougher opponents than anyone in the league – certainly for anyone lower in the lineup.

In that way it was a challenge for her. I just think looking at it individually, no player gave us a reason not to change things when we felt it was necessary. There’s no one I’ve said, ‘They have to be in the line-up because they’re playing so well.’ That gives us an opportunity to postpone some things.

I still believe in the different elements that we have there. We’ll just try to find the right mix.

Keefe on Engvall’s start to the season:

I think he looked hesitant and hesitant to skate. That’s his biggest asset – moving his feet with and without the puck to engage. He hasn’t done that here before. It’s a bit of a reset for him here tonight.

I spoke to him yesterday about clearing his head. He’s an important player for us. I know he has more opportunities to positively influence our line-up. He had a good season last year. We’re looking for him to build on. It didn’t go the way he or I would have liked the start of the season.

He’s an important guy. We gotta get it running.

Keefe on balancing bolstering a second unit on the power play that scored twice against Dallas and wanting to get the top unit rolling:

The coach has to manage that for sure. We had a lot of power plays lately. It’s a balance for me to give the second unit a reward for the work they’ve done and get them outside, but you also want the first group to work through what they’re going through and find their rhythm.

After the Kerfoot goal the other night we started the second group and tried to change the rhythm in that way by giving the second group the first minute or so. Things didn’t go very well for her. From there we want to go back to the traditional look with the other group starting first as we normally do.

It’s one of those things. They want to give the other guys a little bit more. They’re not doing well, and now you’ve thrown them off. There’s a real balance there. The fact that these guys caught for us in the second session changed the game for us a lot.

Auston Matthews on the presence of Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds in the lineup:

Ultimate teammates and ultimate warriors. Over the course of their careers, they’ve really carved their way into the careers they’ve had. They are two guys who play physically, always have your back and bring a lot of energy and intensity to our team. I definitely don’t think there’s anything negative about having guys like that in the lineup.

Matthews on the team’s five-game performance:

We’re 3-2 and I don’t think we’ve played as well as we’d like or scratched the surface of what we think our team is.

This is a really good and important road trip for us to come here especially early in the season and to come together, create chemistry on and off the ice and have fun playing hockey.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forward
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Austin Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#89 Nick Robertson – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
No. 12 Zach Aston-Reese – No. 15 Alex Kerfoot – No. 19 Calle Järnkrok
#43 Kyle Clifford – #64 David Kampf – #24 Wayne Simmonds

defender
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #3 Justin Holl
#55 Mark Giordano – #98 Victor Mete

goalkeeper
Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#50 Erik Källgren

Hurt: Jake Muzzin, Matt Murray, Timothy Liljegren, Jordie Benn
extras: Pierre Engvall, Denis Malgin, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel


Winnipeg Jets projected lines

Forward
#81 Kyle Connor – #55 Mark Scheifele – #22 Mason Appleton
#91 Cole Perfetti – #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois – #26 Blake Wheeler
#36 Morgan Barron – #17 Adam Lowry – #Saku Maenalanen
#71 Axel Jonsson-Fjällby – #19 David Gustafsson – #89 Sam Gagner

defender
#44 Josh Morrissey – #4 Neal Pionk
#64 Logan Stanley – #2 Dylan DeMelo
#5 Brenden Dillon – #88 Nate Schmidt

goalkeeper
Starter: #37 Connor Hellebuyck
#33 David Rittich

Injured/Out: Nikolai Ehlers


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