In the second of a five-game homestand, the Leafs (29-11-8) will look to avenge a December loss on Broadway tonight when they host the New York Rangers (26-14-7) at Scotiabank Arena.
Back on December 15m At Madison Square Garden, Jimmy Vesey scored twice — one of which was an empty netter — as New York took the three-game season series opener 3-1. If you remember, that was the night Mitch Marner’s 23-point streak was snapped. Coincidentally, his 20-game home point streak ended in a 5-2 rout of the Islanders on Monday night.
The Leafs, who have four games remaining before the long nine-day break (All-Star/Bye Week), will surprisingly roll again with the red-hot Ilya Samsonov. The 25-year-old will make his fourth straight start and fifth in the last seven. He is 13-0-1 on home ice.
Meanwhile, although the starters have not been confirmed, it will likely mark the second straight All-Russian goalie matchup for Toronto. After getting the better of Ilya Sorokin two nights ago, Samsonov will likely take on last season’s Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin tonight. New York is 7-2-1 in its last 10 outings.
Time: 7 PM ET (Sportsnet, TNT)
NYR Igor Shesterkin – Likely (21-8-6, 2.44, 0.918, 1 SO)
Tor Ilya Samsonov – Probably (15-4-2, 2.21, 0.920, 2 SO)
Fire me up. Not only will this game be televised coast-to-coast in Canada, but it will be the feature presentation on a TNT doubleheader in the United States on Wednesday night of this week. Translation: It’s time for Auston Matthews to grab the spotlight. 25 years old is his 25 potm Started the campaign on Monday night and has now scored six goals in his last six games. On top of that, Matthews is currently riding an unofficial 10-game point streak, and if that’s not enough, he’s scored at least one point in 16 home games. All you need to know is he’s on fire and I can’t think of a better stage for No. 34 to continue.
Ilya Samsonov against Igor Shesterkin, need I say more? While I realize as I say it, the opposite will happen, this goalie matchup has created an instant classic. Samsonov has allowed 10 goals in his last six games and Shesterkin has surrendered two goals or fewer in three of his last four games. Moreover, in my first story, I’m interested to see how Samsonov handles the pressure of an international stage for tonight’s game. It goes without saying, but he has a huge opportunity to grab that net right now for the Maple Leafs.
So, what will Sheldon Keefe choose to do? Does he put together combos from the last game, or does he rehash the ones he’s been working on for most of the season? Personally, considering their success, I think you’ll keep things rolling with the reunited pair (91/88 | 34/16). Honestly, I think we put too much stock in line configurations these days, but I’ll do that. Until the well runs dry or they give you a reason for them not to be together, I think it’s an easy decision for Keef. Regardless, it’s a truly embarrassing resource. Now is the time for exploration and judgment. Hell, I’d even like to see Bobby McMahon in the top-six.
(until noon EDT)
Mitch Marner over 2.5 SOG