After such a porous start for both clubs, both teams are heading into tonight’s original six matchup with their longest streak of the season and are currently playing their best hockey. The Red Wings are looking to extend their streak to 4 wins, while the Leafs are looking to extend their streak to 2 games for the first time this season.
Chris Osgood has posed a major problem for the teams during the streak. He’s only allowed 2 goals on 84 shots and seems to be back to his playoff form.
â€œHe gave us confidence to play well in front of him,â€ said Zetterberg after the team’s shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
It helped that the club implemented a more defensive style to their game in order to offset the losses of Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson to free agency, and Johan Franzen (knee) and Valtteri Filppula (wrist) due to injuries.
â€œWeâ€™re not going to win the same way we did before,â€ said head coach Mike Babcock. â€œWe donâ€™t have the team to do that.â€
The Leafs are looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season after overcoming a two goal deficit to defeat the league-worst Carolina Hurricanes last night. The Leafs have registered at least a point in their last six outings, going 2-0-4 in the process.
â€œWhenever they scored, we seemed to sag at that point – maybe feeling sorry for ourselves,â€ coach Ron Wilson said. â€œWe have to get mad at some point. I said to the team, â€˜Weâ€™ve only got one win in 13 games. Whenâ€™s somebody going to get mad?â€™â€
There’s still some controversy regarding which goaltender will get the start tonight. Jonas Gustavsson says that while back to back games were a rarity back in Sweden, he’s ready for the challenge should he get the start.
â€œIn the regular season, we never played back to back, but in the playoffs we did,â€ he said. â€œFor everyone that plays hockey, of course its not the best situation, but you find ways to handle that and get ready for it. If the coach wants you to play back to back, you find a way to [do it].â€
Right now, Gustavsson has a few things neither MacDonald nor Toskala have this season – a win, and a save percentage that is above 0.900 (he currently has a 0.908 SV%).
There’s more fuel to add to the Gustavsson vs. Red Wings fire. Consider his three periods of play during the pre-season in which he shutout the Red Wings in two separate games. Despite the pre-season bearing no effect on how a team will perform in the regular season, he did seem to have the Red Wings number. Don’t believe me?
Personally, I feel the Leafs should ride Gustavsson into tonight’s home game and continue the Leafs current momentum. A win over the Detroit Red Wings can really spark a team’s confidence, but if Toskala gets the nod and the Leafs are forced to sacrifice the chances offensively due to a poor performance in net, it prevents the Leafs from taking that next step forward in closing off the points in the standings.
Phil Kessel’s new line of John Mitchell and Jason Blake combined for 4 points last night with a +3. I think they found the right chemistry for Kessel early on, and hopefully they can maintain it.
Interesting Note from MapleLeafs.com:
It’s the Hall of Fame Game on Hockey Night in Canada. It’s a big Red Wings weekend in Toronto as Steve Yzerman goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame with Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, members of Detroit’s 2002 Cup championship team. And, for a little sideshow action, this is also the only time Mike Babcock (Detroit and Team Canada) and Ron Wilson (Toronto and Team USA) will coach against each other before the Olympics.
Powerplay: TOR 3rd (26.7%), DET 12th (21.7%)
Penalty Kill: TOR 30th (70.7%), DET 25th (76.0%)
Faceoff % – TOR 23rd (48.5%), DET 15th (49.9%)
Average Shots For: TOR 5th (33.0), DET 3rd (33.6)
Average Shots Against: TOR 20th (30.6), DET 10th (28.9)
Average Goals For: TOR 23rd (2.43), DET 13th (2.93)
Average Goals Against: TOR 30th (3.79), DET 18th (2.93)
5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: TOR 29th (0.57), DET 22nd (0.89)
I will be liveblogging tonight’s game on TheScore.com.
Micheal A. Aldred