The NHL’s best team prepares to take on the league’s second worst at the Air Canada Centre tonight. Â That sentence alone should bring a smile to every Leafs fan’s face, regardless of the significant portion of the season that has yet to be played. Â Of course, even though the Bruins are currently among the bottom feeders in the NHL, the reigning Stanley Cup champs will surely be a tough test for Toronto’s young club. Â With starting goalie James Reimer still recovering from whiplash, Ben Scrivens will get his second consecutive start. Â More surprisingly, Luke Schenn will sit as a healthy scratch, allowing Cody Franson to draw back into the lineup alongside rookie Jake Gardiner.
While it is shocking to see management’s willingness to scratch one of their golden boys, Schenn has had it coming. Â His ice time has been drastically reduced from what he is used to as he has struggled to find his game in the early goings of this season. Â Luke is at his best when he is assertive, both with his physicality and his decision making. Â The end product is typically a stud of a defensive defenseman that is apt at getting his team out of trouble and making the simple, yet effective outlet pass.
However, this first stretch of games has seen Schenn look uncertain, slow, and caught out of position on more than a few occasions. Â As is always the hope with young players (it is sometimes easy to forget that Schenn is but 22 years old), the time off should allow for reflection, renewed focus, and the proper motivation to rediscover his game. Â As Cody Franson will take Schenn’s place in the lineup, don’t expect him to see an abundance of minutes tonight. Â Ron Wilson will employ Franson sparingly and will perhaps utilize him as more of a sheltered, offensive weapon, a strategy that worked well for the former Predator in Nashville.
In net, the Leafs will go back to Ben Scrivens, after a stellar performance on the road in which Scrivens stopped 38 shots and was an undeniable force. Â While Scrivens is likely bound to be sent back to the AHL upon Reimer’s return, he has a fantastic opportunity to add to his NHL resume and possibly complicate the goaltending depth chart behind Reimer. Â The young goalie’s strengths lie in a cool, calmÂ demeanorÂ that facilitate razor sharp focus and the ability to exude confidence to the rest of his squad. Â Moreover, his lateral movements are rapid and purposeful, and his natural game appears to mesh well with the blocking system taught by Francois Allaire.
That being said, the Bruins know that the Leafs are throwing the rookie right back into the mix, and you can be sure they will do their best to throw off his game. Â With a plethora of large bodies in their lineup, expect to see Boston players pushing their way into the crease (and subsequently into Scrivens) early and often. Â Already having difficulty with clearing the opposition from the goalmouth on their penalty kill, Toronto will need to be extra aggressive in this area tonight. Â Anticipating the possibility of roughhousing, the Leafs have inserted pugilist Jay Rosehill onto their fourth line in lieu of Philippe Dupuis.
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