Ramblings: Leafs’ Goaltending, Barzal Steals Show, Karlsson Heating Up (Dec 30)

Ian Gooding


Either I possess incredible fortune-telling skills, or I jinxed Frederik Andersen (Saturday Ramblings). Whatever it is, the well-used Leafs’ starting goalie is now day-to-day with a groin injury. Because Saturday callup Kasimir Kaskisuo is clearly not NHL ready (.866 SV% in the AHL), the Leafs acquired veteran backup Michael Hutchinson from the Panthers for a 2020 fifth-round pick. This is a small price to pay for the Leafs, who badly needed a goalie for the AHL Marlies. If Andersen is out for more than a few days, expect Hutchinson to be called up right away. Although Hutchinson isn’t having a spectacular year in the AHL (.906 SV%), he had a stellar campaign for the Manitoba Moose last season (2.08 GAA, .935 SV%).

When you add in the kind of game Garret Sparks had on Saturday (four goals allowed on 24 shots), I could see Hutchinson competing for starts on the big club if Andersen isn’t back soon. Sparks was playing his second game on back-to-back nights, but by no means has he solidified himself as a goalie who can carry a team at the NHL level.

Three of those four goals came from the stick of Mathew Barzal, all in the second period. (By the way, do Isles’ fans call him the new girlfriend and Tavares the ex?) Barzal now has three-point games on back-to-back nights with points in four consecutive games. As a follower noted on Twitter, Barzal has been shooting the puck more. Over his first 19 games Barzal took only 34 shots (less than two per game), while over his last 18 games he has taken 52 shots (nearly three shots per game). Or to put it another way, Barzal scored just three goals prior to December 15. Since then he has rattled off seven goals in seven games while taking 24 shots (over three per game). Yes, the buy-low window has slammed shut.   

In case you haven’t noticed, Robin Lehner is on a roll. With his 36-save blanking of the Leafs, Lehner has now posted wins on back-to-back nights and has now won four consecutive games. Over those four wins he has allowed just two goals (granted, Friday’s win was in relief). As expected, this goalie battle has been a seesaw, with Lehner holding the upper hand at the moment. If Lehner can stay healthy, then he is a goalie worth owning (only 38% owned in Yahoo leagues). Especially if the now over-.500 (and by over-.500 I mean real .500, where OT/SO losses are considered losses and not ties) Islanders are serious about winning.

Obviously John Tavares was held without a p