Home Leafs News Game Day Thread: Leafs at Rangers, 7pm (Sportsnet)

Game Day Thread: Leafs at Rangers, 7pm (Sportsnet)

809
Clarke MacArthur

Clarke MacArthur

Leafs fans are getting used to this.

The undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs (3-0) take a tour down Broadway this evening en route to face off against the New York Rangers (1-1) at historic Madison Square Gardens. 

Coming off a narrow victory over the much-heralded Pittsburgh Penguins, the Maple Leafs will look to keep the momentum going against a Rangers team that has had no difficultly keeping the lamp lit … at both ends of the ice.

Gameday Notes

Last Season

The Maple Leafs and Rangers played each other on four occasions last season, with the Rangers winning three of the four in convincing fashion. When all was said and done, the Rangers outscored the Leafs 18-7 in the four game set.

Early Trends

It is difficult to look too closely at statistics only a couple games in, as the season is not nearly to a point at which one can judge a team off its numerical production. That said, there are some early trends which are worthy of attention:

The Rangers have had no difficulty putting the puck in the net, scoring 10 goals in their first 2 games (5 GF/Gm avg), on 61 shots (16.4 SH%)

However, the Rangers have struggled defensively and in goal, allowing 9 goals against in their first two games (4.50 GA/Gm) on 68 shots (34/gm) for an .868 SV%.

Correction: the Rangers have allowed an empty netter, which raises their sv% to .881.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are rolling along at a brisk 4 GF/Gm to 2 GA/Gm pace, boasting a 15.8 SH% and .915 SV%.

Scoring first  — and subsequently playing with a lead – has been an early key for both teams. The Rangers scored first in their victory over the Sabres, and found themselves trailing early in their loss to the Islanders. The Leafs have scored first in each game they have played, winning all three. 

Players to Watch

In one of the early surprise performances of the season, Rangers’ rookie Derek Stepan stepped out of nowhere to record a hat trick in his first game (vs Buffalo). Although held off the scoreboard in the Rangers’ next match (vs NYI), any player with a hat trick under his belt certainly bears monitoring.

Brandon Dubinsky is off to a hot start for the Rangers, with 3 goals and 1 assist in 2 games, as is Artem Anisimov (1 goal, 2 assists).  Marion Gaborik (2 assists) has yet to score his first goal of the season, but when healthy — as he is currently — he remains one of the top threats in the league and must be accounted for at all times.

Although Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t had the sort of start many had envisioned, a mere two games in is no cause for panic. However, he will need better defensive support if he is to find his rhythm.

Speaking of the Rangers’ blueline woes, the Leafs’ top line of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak, and Phil Kessel should have a much stronger game against a skilled, but not particularly physical, Rangers defensive unit. 

While few would expect Leafs’ winger Clarke MacArthur to keep up his torrid pace (4 goals, 1 assist in 3 games), the Rangers’ early defensive troubles will provide him an excellent chance to extend his scoring streak to four games.

Luke Schenn has been an effective force, leading all Maple Leafs’ defenders with a +3 rating and 10 hits. His pair of assists have put him in an early tie for the points lead among Toronto blueliners.

Injuries

Chris Drury returns to the Rangers’ lineup tonight after missing the opening two games with a broken finger, while Vaclav Prospal remains out with a knee injury. Erik Christensen will be a game-time decision after leaving Monday’s game with an apparent leg injury. 

Maple Leafs’ enforcer Colton Orr will return after leaving the game against Pittsburgh early following a fight with Deryk Engelland. Brett Lebda has recovered from injury and is ready to make his Leafs’ debut, but will have to wait as head coach Ron Wilson remains hesitant to tinker with a lineup that has yet to lose a game.

Maple Leafs’ Lineup

There appears to be little impetus to make any sort of change to what has been a winning formula thus far. J-S Giguere is expected to get the start in net, his third of the season.

(lineup via Jonas Siegel)

Versteeg-Bozak-Kessel
MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin
Sjostrom-Brent-Armstrom
Brown-Zigomanis-Orr

Beauchemin-Phaneuf
Kaberle-Schenn
Gunnarsson-Komisarek