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Roll with the Changes: Blackhawks vs. Maple Leafs preview

A lot has happened with this franchise off the ice. On the ice, the story remains the same.

Chicago Blackhawks v Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against Connor Murphy of the Chicago Blackhawks during NHL action
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Tuesday was a busy day for the Blackhawks off the ice. Departed are GM and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman, as well as longtime executive Al MacIsaac. Kyle Davidson has taken over as interim general manager. The franchise was fined $2 million by the NHL and there may be more changes for other NHL teams coming down the pipe.

On the ice, however, the story remains the same: the Blackhawks are still not great and have yet to lead for a single second of their first six games this season, setting a new NHL record. They’re one of just two teams in the NHL (thanks, Arizona) without a victory.

However, the on-ice product may be even worse as Jonathan Toews — who scored two points against the Red Wings — and Henrik Borgstrom, who scored a goal, have been added to COVID-19 protocol, joining Patrick Kane, Riley Stillman and Jujhar Khaira there. Not great news. Because of that, the Chicago lineup for this game is anyone’s guess. Coach Jeremy Colliton had offered no hints after the morning skate.

So, instead, let’s focus on the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs are supposed to be better than they have been (sound familiar?), as Toronto is off to a 2-4-1 start, coming off back-to-back games where they scored just one goal. Those games were against the Penguins and Hurricanes, but the Leafs should still be in contention against good teams.

The Maple Leafs remain a good team in terms of possession, and they’re still top 10 in both Corsi (54.09 percent, 7th) and expected goal share (53.73 percent, 10th). They don’t generate as many high-danger chances (50.32 percent, 15th) so far this season, however.

The Leafs are struggling to score. That makes a lot of sense when players like Mitch Marner have just one point (and even then, just a secondary assist) and Auston Matthews has just one goal. While William Nylander has five points, he can’t do it alone and the next highest scorer is 38-year-old Jason Spezza.

The Leafs acquired some talent this offseason, including Nick Ritchie, former Blackhawk David Kampf, Ondrej Kase, Michael Bunting, Michael Amadio and goaltender Petr Mrazek. The problem is that, besides Bunting — who has four points (2 G, 2 A) this season after scoring 13 points (10 G, 3 A) in 21 games as a rookie last season — none of those acquisitions are working out particularly great.

Kase, Ritchie, Amadio and Kampf have combined for one point in the Leafs’ first seven games, a goal from Kase. When the rest of the team isn’t scoring, that isn’t terrific. Mrazek has started just one game for the Leafs so far, with a .885 save percentage, and Jack Campbell is posting a .915 save percentage as the Leafs’ starter to date.

Additionally, the Leafs are relying on younger defensemen this year, including Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, but those two have proven to be some of the better Leafs defensemen to start the season, as Liljegren has allowed just 1.97 expected goals per 60 at 5-on-5 so far and Sandin isn’t much ahead with 2.1.

The Leafs seem to be waiting on their other stars to get going before they take off, and some experts had them finally breaking their one-and-done streak in the postseason this year. To break it, they’ll have to actually make the playoffs in a crowded Eastern Conference and no longer have the North to bully.

Luckily, they might have the 0-5-1 Blackhawks to torment, however, at least for one game.

Let’s, uh ... get a lead, Hawks.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Maple Leafs (numbers from last season)

45.85% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.01% (11th)

43.96% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 55.14% (2nd)

2.84 (16th) — Goals per game — 3.32 (6th)

3.29 (24th) — Goals against per game — 2.64 (7th)

46.9% (27th) — Faceoffs — 51.1% (10th)

21.7% (11th) — Power play — 20% (16th)

76.8% (28th) — Penalty kill — 78.5% (24th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Maple Leafs

Bunting — Matthews — Nylander

Kerfoot — Tavares — Marner

Engvall — Kampf — Kase

Ritchie — Spezza — Simmonds

Rielly — Brodie

Muzzin — Holl

Sandin — Dermott

Campbell

Hutchinson

How to watch

When: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: ESPN+