This is an odd one to say the least.
The Maple Leafs, fresh off last night’s victory over Oilers, are on Long Island this afternoon toÂ take on the Islanders in an usually-timed 5pm game (Leafs TV).
As enjoyable as last night’s high-scoringÂ affair was, it also revealed a key area in which the Leafs have much work to do: playing with the lead.Â Toward the end of the second, and throughout the third period, the Leafs’ tendencies shifted away from the relentless puck pursuit they displayed so admirably in the game’s first half, with the team instead taking their foot off the gas and sitting back in the defensive zone for the latter stages.
Case in point: midway through the game, the Leafs had a 5-1 lead … and were promptly outscored 3-1 the rest of the way.Â Mind you, a few bad penalties did not help matters for the league’s worst penalty-killing team, but the effort level clearly had begun to dissipate in both the neutral and defensive zonesÂ by the halfway point of the game.Â That is something which is clearly unacceptable, and is quite simply not the sort of tendency that will allow the Leafs to win many games.Â Against the Oilers, they can get away with that (as evidenced last evening); however, had that been the effort on display versus a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Leafs probably would have lost that game.
You might be asking at this pointÂ whatÂ any of that has to do with the Islanders game tonight.Â And the answer is plenty.Â The Leafs will enter this game a tired group from playing last night & having to fly out right after, and the exhaustion level is coupled by the fact that tonight’s game will be their fifth in the past eight days. Fatigue could be a factor; never mind the fact that it is scheduled at somewhat of an odd time (5pm)Â to begin with.
The good news is, the Leafs have been on a roll of late, winning three games in row and four of their past five.Â The Islanders, meanwhile, enter this game coming off a win at home last night over the Devils, one which snapped a four-game losing skid.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the start in netÂ tonight for the Leafs, with Martin Biron expected to get the nodÂ for the Islanders.
You can catch the television broadcast of the game on LeafsTV, radio play by play on AM 640 or AM 900 (depending on your region), or watch it online at atdhe.net.