4 Questions Maple Leafs Face As NHL Returns To Play

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are back already, you could say, given their 4-2 win in Tuesday’s exhibition against the Montreal Canadiens.

About Questions
There are these four ways of answering questions. Which four? There are questions that should be answered categorically [straightforwardly yes, no, this, that]. There are questions that should be answered with an analytical (qualified) answer [defining or redefining the terms]. There are questions that should be answered with a counter-question. There are questions that should be put aside. These are the four ways of answering questions.
A question is an utterance which typically functions as a request for information, which is expected to be provided in the form of an answer. Questions can thus be understood as a kind of illocutionary act in the field of pragmatics or as special kinds of propositions in frameworks of formal semantics such as alternative semantics or inquisitive semantics. Questions are often conflated with interrogatives, which are the grammatical forms typically used to achieve them. Rhetorical questions, for example, are interrogative in form but may not be considered true questions as they aren’t expected to be answered. Conversely, non-interrogative grammatical structures may be considered questions as in the case of the imperative sentence “tell me your name”.

Four Questions Maple Leafs Face As NHL Returns To Play

About Returns
Return may refer to:

But they’ll really be back on Sunday night, when their best-of-five qualifying round series kicks off against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Entering that series, here are four questions the Maple Leafs are facing.

Four Questions Maple Leafs Face As NHL Returns To Play

1. How steady is Freddy?

The 2019-20 season has been a tumultuous one for Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen from a performance perspective (career-low .909 save percentage and 2.85 goals against average). Still, the workload hasn’t wavered.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox recently noted that since 2016, when Toronto acquired Andersen, the goalie has faced 7,748 shots and stopped 7,142 of them — both NHL highs by roughly 300. Andersen has made the most starts (244) in that span as well.

Patience doesn’t last forever, but Andersen has built enough trust with Toronto to retain his spot entering the playoffs. Keep in mind that he has been the only Maple Leaf in the crease during their past three playoff runs.

His backup, Jack Campbell, has zero NHL playoff experience. In the best-of-five series at least, it’ll likely stay that way.

2. How important is Ilya Mikheyev’s return?

Mikheyev needed all of 33 seconds on Tuesday to respond to that question.

Can you believe this was Mikheyev’s first competitive shift since December? Not too shabby.

During Toronto’s recent training camp, coach Sheldon Keefe said the 25-year-old rookie had “a little extra jump,” which is impressive given that he was already among the fastest skaters on the team.

Mikheyev was also named the MVP of the Maple Leafs’ camp and looks primed to skate on a line with John Tavares.

For a guy who skated almost entirely with the team’s bottom-six in the winter, that’s huge. Now we’ll get to see how real Mikheyev’s per 60 stats are, which rank among the best on the team (at 5-on-5):

  • 2.44 points (first)
  • 9.77 shots (second)
  • 18.15 shot attempts (second)
  • 8.38 scoring chances (fifth)
  • 2.21 takeaways (fourth)

Seriously, quiz your friend on who leads the Maple Leafs in even-strength points per 60. I’m certain they won’t pick Mikheyev.

If he can drive offense like this, Toronto will somehow be an even scarier scoring machine.

3. What are the advantages of playing in their home rink?

Aside from not having to travel to the hub city … pretty much nothing! We know there won’t be fans, but the league’s efforts to level the playing field goes further than that.

Toronto will serve as the home team for some games at Scotiabank Arena (the first two, and the fifth if necessary against Columbus), but they’ll have to be the road team as well.

That means relinquishing their own dressing room, as they did Tuesday for the Canadiens.

The NHL has put up generic signage in the rink, too, and home teams will get some creature comforts like goal songs, win songs, hype videos, etc.

Off the ice, the Maple Leafs are still required to quarantine in a hotel just like everybody else. They are one of seven Eastern Conference teams staying at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto, while five teams are at Hotel X just west of downtown.

Royal York is closer to the rink, but Hotel X is actually the more modern facility, with a rooftop pool, tennis courts and immediate access to BMO Field (which Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported will be accessible to players who want to grill, work out or just relax).

So even in their own city, the Maple Leafs don’t have the optimal place to stay.

4. Will they beat the Blue Jackets in a best-of-five series?

OK, we don’t really have the answer for this one. They certainly can beat Columbus, but the results will have to play themselves out in the next week or two.

For what it’s worth, Toronto is 3-1-1 against Columbus in the past two years, including 1-0-1 this year.

MORE FROM FORBESPlay-In Preview: How Do Maple Leafs And Blue Jackets Compare?

As I examined two months ago, this matchup can be simplified as offense (Toronto) vs. defense (Columbus). There are always more layers than that, but you get the basic picture.

And hey, it might even be fun!

The most pressing question to ask is probably whether or not the NHL can survive through to the end of this season. We certainly hope the answer is a resounding yes.

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