Maple Leafs: Hutchinson Gets Saturday Start in Must-Win Scenario

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson is still looking for his first win of the season and he’ll have a chance Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.

The 29-year-old has six starts this season and will head for his seventh on this, the first day of winter. That’s also 346 days away from his most recent NHL win.

Now, it’s not like Hutchinson gets a lot of ice time. He started just five games last season in Toronto and had three starts the season before that in Florida. He hasn’t played any serious hockey since a run in Winnipeg, with his busiest season a 36-start campaign in 2014-2015. He pulled off 21 wins that season, with a .914 save percentage by the way.

But the Barrie native has become a backup netminder with little else to show for himself since then and Saturday’s opportunity against Detroit is, realistically, just another brick in the wall.

Some pundits are calling it Hutchinson’s last chance to prove he can be a difference-maker with the Maple Leafs this season and that’s probably pretty apt.

Toronto has been and will be leaning on starter Frederik Andersen a lot. He has 29 starts so far – the first goalie in the NHL to hit that mark this year – and picked up the win Friday against the New York Rangers, so you could argue he’s earned a night off in the back-to-back scenario.

And you could also argue there will be no better chance for Hutchinson to prove he can win, what with the Maple Leafs a little tired but more than primed to take advantage of a faltering Detroit squad. The Red Wings have only scored 79 goals this season.

There are issues with Hutchinson, that much is clear. Rebound control is a matter worth exploring, for instance, and his stats are simply awful. He’s allowed 28 goals on 197 shots, good for a .876 save percentage and a 4.55 goals against average.

But his failure to forge a W has also put Toronto in a difficult position, which means they’re going to have to make a move soon. Even if Hutchinson snags a win against a porous and poor team like the Red Wings Saturday, he’ll have a lot more to prove and a lot less time in which to do it.

In other words, for the sake of Andersen and everything else that’s holy in Leafdom this holiday season, it’s way past time to shop for a reliable backup.

Photo credit: Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP

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