The Leafs are looking to take over top spot in the league standings with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena. With a win the Leafs, at 19 points through 13 games, would leapfrog the Penguins for top spot in the NHL, at least for the time being (The Pens play a late game against the Sharks). Just in case, when is the last time the top team in the league also owned a sub-70%, last-placed penalty kill? Combine that stat with their mere +3 goals for/against differential and it speaks to 1) the Leafs have been the best team in the league five on five this season; 2) how good they’ve been at finding ways to win in high scoring affairs, and 3) the tantalizing yet befuddling thought of what this team might be capable of with an even mediocre PK.
The Leafs will skate into Columbus to face off with a franchise in a seriously bad state at the moment, whose first month has been lowlighted by an early, lengthy suspension to James Wisniewski, a foot injury sidelining new acquisition Jeff Carter, a coaching change and a league-worst five points (2-9-1). Can Toronto take advantage? In recent seasons, the seeming easy outs have been far from it for this Leafs team, so this will be an interesting test in that sense.
Ben Scrivens will make his NHL debut, as the Leafs push Reimer’s return back at least another game, no doubt augmenting the level concern from Leafs Nation. If you told Leafs fans in advance that Gustavsson would be starting six straight before the first month of the season was even over, most would’ve been in full on panic mode, so the results have been pleasantly surprising with him in net. He’s 4-3 on the season and has at least given the Leafs a fighting chance most nights. Now it’s up to Scrivens to try to do the same.
Outside of the goaltending change, the lineup will remain identical to last night’s in New Jersey.