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Game Day Update: Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs- Key Match Ups, Projected Lineups

Toronto’s youth will be on display at The Joe

NHL: Centennial Classic-Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Not much for updates with the Wings on the second night of a back-to-back, but there is this:

“Not sure who the goalie would be” is GM speak for “go ask Jeff Blashill.”

Key Match Ups

Mantha Coming Back Down to Earth

I don’t even like to necessarily phrase it that way. Mantha is simply slowing down after a scorching start where he looked like the true power forward the Red Wings have been missing since Brendan Shanahan. He hasn’t scored in seven games, been pointless in his last four and has especially struggled in his past two. His overall possession numbers remain strong, he had five shots just a couple games ago in Buffalo. He’ll be fine. This is par for the course with even above average rookies. What’s interesting is how Blashill will handle it. The general manager of this team already talked about how rookies are on a shorter leash and Blashill dropped him off Zetterberg’s line last night while chopping significant ice time. Mantha didn’t appear in overtime last night (but Sheahan did) and only played 9:51 total—under 10 minutes for the first time this season.

Matthews & Marner & More

The Maple Leafs feature nine rookies in their lineup. Think about that then contrast it to our Red Wings. It’s an inverse. While this is an exceptionally talented group lets remember who their coach is. After he left Detroit, Babcock was scapegoated for not playing younger players. It was apparently such an issue, Larkin didn’t agree to sign until after Babcock left for fear it would take longer to get an NHL opportunity. Is this where I cram in an “alternative facts” joke? Digressing—the Leafs have had three different ‘Rookies of the Month’ (William Nylander-October, Auston Matthews-December, Mitch Marner-January) and also boast Connor Carrick and Nikita Zaitzev playing good minutes on defense. I wouldn’t question Babcock’s willingness to play and develop young players ever again. Toronto’s progression from lottery team to legit Stanley Cup contender is moving in light years and it’s frightening.

Look For Tatar and Nyquist Reunited

As mentioned earlier, Mantha was dropped off Zetterberg’s top line last night in favor of Tatar. In December, Tatar was playing with Zetterberg and Mantha, a time that saw him get a hat trick against Anaheim. He was eventually dropped off the line to get Nyquist going. The two streaky scorers have played their best hockey with Zetterberg this season. In the third period of last night’s game, they looked exceptional, getting multiple scoring chances and outpacing the Patrice Bergeron line head-to-head. I’m anticipating seeing these three together again and hopefully buzzing.

Carlton The Bear

Am I the last one to find out Toronto’s mascot is named Carlton? No, he wont factor in tonight’s game. One, it’s in Detroit. Two, he’s a mascot. But I’m rapidly running out of reasons to make fun of the Maple Leafs. I’ve thrived off it emotionally for decades now. When I was in Toronto for the Centennial Classic, I got chirped by Leafs fans a ton. What do I say this year?

“RED WINGS SUCK!”

“....Well yeah, this year they do. I mean. (shrugs shoulders)”

Sure, I could’ve mentioned it’s been 50 years since they’ve won a Stanley Cup. Or said something about Mats Sundin having to embarrass himself with the Canucks in a desperate attempt to win a Cup. Wayne Gretzky in ‘93 is a good one to bring up. There’s all those Norris Division stompings the Wings put on the Leafs in the 80’s too. I’m sure there’s still blood seeping through the bandage of dumping Phil Kessel then watching him become a Conn Smythe candidate with the Pengiuns. Then of course, blowing a 4-1 lead vs. the Bruins, which would’ve been a rather prescient retort. That’s a lot I could’ve said to the drunk in the Drake Berehowsky sweater. But I was freezing, had drank a case of Two Hearted the night before and only got three hours of sleep on the ride there. All I had in me was shrugs.

If only I had then known about Carlton. Carlton would’ve been perfect. I have a sinking feeling he’ll soon be all I have.