Winless in four, the Toronto Maple Leafs finish up their road trip in Chicago, taking on a Chicago Blackhawks team that is winless in six to start the season.
It is a matchup of two teams that really need a win.
With a 2-4-1 record, the Maple Leafs sit sixth in the Atlantic Division, with five points in seven games. Their -10 goal differential is second-worst in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the Montreal Canadiens.
“I do believe we will get through it,” said Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “That’s why I’ve remained confident, as we are going through this. It sucks. It’s not fun to go through, it’s not fun to talk about, but it’s part of the process.”
The vaunted Maple Leafs attack has been ineffective early in the season. William Nylander leads the club with five points (2 G, 3 A), followed by Jason Spezza (3 G, 1 A) and Michael Bunting (2 G, 2 A) with four. The lack of production from the likes of John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews has certainly affected recent results.
“We think we have a really good team,” Keefe said following Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve got lots of great ingredients, great players, and we have played some good hockey. As I’ve been saying, some good hockey doesn’t cut it. We’ve got to put it all together here.”
Toronto’s expected lineup for the eighth game of the season:
Bunting – Matthews – Nylander
Kerfoot – Tavares – Marner
Engvall – Kampf – Kase
Ritchie – Spezza – Simmonds
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Sandin – Dermott
The on-ice issues hardly matter for the Chicago Blackhawks at this point. An investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block into the team’s handling of sexual assault allegations going back to 2010 resulted in several executives leaving the team, including General Manager Stan Bowman.
DeBrincat, on Bowman resigning:
"Probably a change that needed to happen…probably a good thing we parted ways."
— Salim Nadim Valji (@salimvalji) October 27, 2021
In the wake of the investigation, there will still be questions to be answered by now Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville and Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who were both alleged to have known about the incident.
Furthermore, long-time Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will have questions to answer about how they handled the situation because, as team leaders, they do not come out of this report looking good in any way.
Turning to the on-ice product is also a problem for Chicago as Kane and Toews are both in Covid-19 protocol right now, along with centre Henrik Borgstrom, winger Jujhar Khaira, and defenceman Riley Stillman.
The Blackhawks are 0-5-1 and have been outscored 27-12. For a team that had elevated expectations after acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenceman Seth Jones in the offseason, this season has not gone according to plan.
While the wolves may be howling at the Maple Leafs’ door following three straight losses, losing to this reeling Blackhawks team would be a truly terrible sign.
Here is the Blackhawks’ expected lineup for Wednesday’s game if none of their players on Covid-19 protocol can return:
DeBrincat – Dach – Hagel
Kubalik – Strome – T. Johnson
Kurashev – Entwistle – Gaudette
Hardman – Carpenter – R. Johnson
De Haan – S. Jones
McCabe – Murphy
Gustafsson – Mitchell
Watch on Sportsnet1 and listen on TSN 1050 in Toronto.
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