After a woeful showing in Pittsburgh 48 hours before, the Toronto Maple Leafs put forth one of their best performances of the season in a 4-0 shutout of the Penguins at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday. Toronto played an effective, energetic two-way game for nearly 60 minutes, held off Pittsburgh’s early charge and took over the contest with three second-period goals.
Jake Muzzin, William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, and Zach Hyman scored for the Leafs, and Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for his second shutout of the season. Coupled with Florida’s 5-4 regulation loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Toronto moved back into third place in the Atlantic Division.
“I think we've talked about it before. We've shown at different times that this is a group with a lot of character and a lot of pride, and we showed that today with how we responded.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “(Our performance was) a sign of how engaged we were in the game. I would say that was where the game begins in a lot of cases. Guys were hard on the puck in all areas of the game.”
Newly acquired forward Denis Malgin performed well in his debut, playing over 15 minutes on the wing with John Tavares and William Nylander and factoring in on the Leafs opening goal, providing a screen in front of Matt Murray. Kapanen scored only his third goal since January 1 on a breakaway, and dropped the gloves with Pittsburgh’s Jared McCann.
“This season is going very different. It's going to require different things from me, it's going to require different things from our players.” Keefe said. “We didn't like how the last little bit has gone. I was excited about the opportunity to get to work yesterday and put in the work and respond. You're playing against the same team, it has a playoff feel to it when you take a beatdown in the first game, you have a chance to regroup and make a plan and push your team, challenge the team, motivate your team. That's the best part of this game. I was excited about it; I think our players were too and it showed.”
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is expecting to be busy looking for opportunities to upgrade their roster leading up to Monday’s 3pm trade deadline. Toronto ideally is looking for a top-four right-handed defenseman with term, but has been rumored to be looking for a short-term rental and some forward depth.
Per Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek’s “31 Thoughts” podcast, the Leafs could be in the mix for veteran Joe Thornton if the 40-year-old is willing to waive his no-trade clause and move before Monday. Thornton has a $2 Million cap hit, but San Jose can retain salary as they did in the Brenden Dillon deal.
A variety of insiders have indicated that NHL clubs have contacted the Leafs about the availability of Tyson Barrie after most of the rental defensemen were moved during the week. It does sound as if Dubas is willing to entertain offers, but would likely only pull the trigger if they get a defenseman with term in return or a package of draft picks and/or prospects that can be flipped for a blueliner.
There is potential interest in Barrie from his hometown Canucks, and RH defenseman Troy Stecher was mentioned as someone that GM Jim Benning would be willing to move.
The Zach Bogosian contract termination could intrigue the Leafs according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. If the former Sabre is not claimed after being up on unconditional waivers on Friday, he would be an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with anyone before 3pm Monday.
Bogosian has long had issues with durability and has to prove that he can still perform to earn a new contract this summer. He will be looking for a destination that could provide him with an opportunity to play regularly and where he can attract attention, both which fits Toronto perfectly, but there will be other suitors as well.
Another name that Toronto is looking at as an inexpensive depth option is Sens forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The former Lightning and Ranger could be obtained for a mid-round draft pick and Namestnikov has ties to the Leafs, as his father scouts for the club in Russia.
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