Your Toronto Maple Leafs are in action tonight against the no-pronged attack of the Philadelphia Flyers.Â Despite the absence of Pronger, the Leafs will be in tough against the deepest and possibly most balanced defense in the league.Â Optimus Reim will make his 12th consecutive start for the buds who are hoping to break out of a 2 game skid while the Flyers will counter with Brian Boucher.Â The game can be seen on Leafs TV at 7pm tonight.
The last time the Leafs and the Flyers met was a week ago exactly.Â The Leafs came into the Wells Fargo Centre and came away with a 3 â€“ 2 win on the strength of Darryl Boyceâ€™s 3rd period â€˜Praise Jesusâ€™ goal.Â It was the first time in three meetings this season that the Leafs won and the first time in 3 years that the buds bested the Flyers in their own arena.
Fans expecting a repeat of March 3rdâ€™s madness might be in for a treat.Â Despite handling the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night, the Flyers have lost 4 of their last 5 and are 4 â€“ 5 â€“ 1 in their last ten.Â The Leafs have lost 5 of their past ten, but have done so in the best way possible, collecting 14 of a possible 20 points (5 â€“ 1 â€“ 4) as they battle to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Tale of the Tape
Leafs: 29 â€“ 28 â€“ 10 (10th in the East)
Flyers: 41 â€“ 19 â€“ 6 (1st in the East)
Leafs: 176 (24th overall)
Flyers: 212 (4th overall)
Leafs: 206 (25th overall)
Flyers: 175 (11th overall)
Leafs:Â 15.7% (25th overall)
Flyers: 16.4% (22nd overall)
Leafs: 78.7% (26th overall)
Flyers: 83.7% (9th overall)
– Street performer/head coach Ron Wilson is again juggling the Leafs top six with the hope of finding some new looks in the attacking zone.Â Mac and the USSR will now be Mac and the Prairie Boys (dibs on that band name) as Clarke will skate on the second line with Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul.Â The first line will consist of 25+ goal scorers Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and the (groan) slumping Phil Kessel.
– Further in this vein, I for one hope that this move wakes up the Leafs gunners.Â With 15 games remaining and a lot of ground to gain, the Leafs top six need to score close to 3 goals a game.Â If itâ€™s unrealistic to expect that sort of production from the Leafs top six, then itâ€™s unrealistic to expect the Leafs to get into the 8th seed.
– I owe an apology to Keith Aulie.Â After Francois Beauchemin was traded, I commented that it would be unreasonable to expect to see Aulie get ice-time north 18 minutes per game.Â In the 13 games that have followed, the native of Rouleau, Saskatchewan has averaged no less than 19 minutes per game.
– On the commute home from work, I realized that Brett Lebdaâ€™s last name is an anagram for â€˜abled.â€™ As in, â€˜When I watch Brett Lebdaâ€™s play in the defensive zone I begin to wonder if heâ€™s mentally disabled.â€ Remember, its not slander if itâ€™s in print and itâ€™s not libel if I am just idly wondering.
Dramatic Plotline of the Day
– In last weekâ€™s match-up, ex-leaf and NWA member Kris Versteeg scored two goals and was causing havoc most of the night.Â His 2 goals against his old club represent 50% of his total since being traded to Philadelphia.Â While 4 goals in 11 games is usually nothing to sneeze at, Versteegâ€™s contributions have â€“ to date â€“ done little to provide quality results for Philadelphia.Â He might become expendable in the offseason if he cannot provide the Flyers with the clutch, key offense that has always been attributed to him.
Final Thoughts and Questions:
– Since the allstar break, the Maple Leafs have set the world on fire with their play.Â If they fall short of making the playoffs, theyâ€™ll only have themselves (and possibly Chris Higgins and Peter Regin to blame).Â With that in mind, Iâ€™ll leave you with a few pressing questions
- Will the new line combos breath life into the club and propel them into the playoffs? Or is this just re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic?
- With the positive early returns, do you feel that Brian Burke has done enough to make this team a playoff contender for next season?
- Is tonight the night that Mike Komisarek is finally relied upon to play big, tough minutes? Nope.
- Think Flyers GM Paul Holmgren might want a do-over on the Versteeg trade?