The Leafs and Islanders have a fair bit of history between them. The Mike Peca/Darcy Tucker incident, the Leafs trading up to acquire Luke Schenn, and even the Islanders beating the Devils (who played Scott Clemmenson instead of Martin Brodeur) in a shootout to knock the Leafs out of the 2006-07 playoffs by one point in the final game of the season. Tonight, they meet again in Toronto.
Despite playing at 0.500 hockey, a win for New York tonight could very well put them into the top 8 in the East – a much different stat than a year ago when they finished last in the league and were mathematically out of the playoffs in early January. The Islanders can pay thanks to the incredible chemistry between John Tavares (9-10-19) and Matt Moulson (10-8-18). It should be mentioned that Matt Moulson was drafted in the 9th round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and in his 29 games before joining the Islanders organization, he had tallied just 10 points. Give credit to John Tavares who has certainly made at least one player around him much better than he really is.
The Islanders have dropped each of their last two games after going 2-0-2 in their first four on this 7 game road swing. Toronto is their final stop, and they'd like to come out on top before heading home.
''It definitely wasn't our game tonight,'' Islanders winger Trent Hunter said after Saturday's loss. ''Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get your legs going after playing the night before, but that wasn't the case. We can't use that as an excuse that we played (Friday) night."
Ian White credits the Leafs win over the Capitals on Saturday night as a sign that the team actually does have an idenity. ''It shows we got character,'' Leafs defenseman Ian White said. ''We're not just going to fold over and skate away.''
Brian Burke is believed to still stand behind his comments prior to Saturday night's game. Despite the team winning in the shootout, it's only a step in the right direction. The Leafs need to continue their strong effort in putting a string of wins together.
"If we don't start winning, we have two options," Burke said. "One, we make a trade, and if I could make one that puts us in the playoffs, I would. But trades are hard to make. Two, we send somebody on a one-way (contract) down and call up the kids. That's the next step. We waive them and send them down, and if we lose them (on a waiver claim), we lose them."
History has showed the Leafs let up after a strong performance. We'll see if the same can be said after tonight's game. It is yet to be announced whether Gustavsson or Toskala will get the start, but after Toskala’s strong performance, he could very well have earned himself a consecutive game.
Powerplay: TOR 4th (24.4%), NYI 20th (18.8%)
Penalty Kill: TOR 30th (73.6%), NYI 13th (81.1%)
Faceoff % – TOR 19th (49.1%), NYI 18th (49.2%)
Average Shots For: TOR 2nd (33.5), NYI 14th (30.2)
Average Shots Against: TOR 21st (30.9), NYI 27th (32.9)
Average Goals For: TOR 23rd (2.52), NYI 18th (2.70)
Average Goals Against: TOR 30th (3.62), NYI 20th (2.91)
5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: TOR 29th (0.70), NYI 24th (0.85)
Micheal A. Aldred