Let’s break down the Leafs lineup for this oh-so special game night.
GOALTENDING: Ben Scrivens
As things stand, Ben Scrivens looks to be the starter tonight in Montreal. This is somewhat surprising, until you consider that Scrivens did look better in camp and is more game ready. In a shortened season like this one, you don’t look to make things complicated early on. If something seems logical, as a coach you do it. Reimer might be back for the home opener, depending on how Scrivens does, but it’s too early to make any concrete conclusions about the Leafs goaltending.
DEFENSE: P1: Phaneuf-Kostka | P2: Liles-Franson | P3: Gunnarsson-Komisarek
Kostka on the first defence pairing is a great story. A kid who grew up a Leafs fan only 45 minutes east of the ACC in Ajax, Ontario is now playing top pairing for the Leafs, next to the Captain, on Hockey Night Canada for the season opener. Carlyle must love him. Now a solid two-way defenseman, he’s always been good with the puck, but his play off of it has really come along.
If you watched the Marlies at all, you’ve noticed how impressive it is to see a defenceman churn out points, then play solid defence the single defenceman in a 3 on 5. He was as good of a complete defenseman as there was in the AHL for the 2012 portion of the AHL schedule. All that is left to see is what’s he’s got in the big leagues.
As impressive as Kostka’s been in everything but the real deal, it’s interesting Carlyle was so quick to drop Gunnarsson down to the third pairing after a pretty good season developing chemistry beside Phaneuf.
FORWARDS: F1: Lupul-Bozak-Kessel | F2: MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin | F3: van Riemsdyk-Kadri-Komarov | F4: Brown-McClement-Orr/Steckel
I particularly like our third line (featuring two Leafs debutants tonight), which seems well balanced and primed to exploit matchups. Komarov can bring grit, defensive responsibility and depth scoring to a line that doesn’t lack talent. If they get going, Thierrien and his Habs could have trouble accounting for and quieting the the triple scoring threat these line combinations provide. It’s worth mentioning the obvious here that PK Subban won’t be in the lineup, and the Habs are looking a little thin on D with units of Markov – Emelin, Kaberle – Gorges, Boullion – Diaz. The flip side of the coin is going to the question marks of how this forward group performs in terms of embracing Carlyle’s systems, assisting in defensive zone coverage and supporting the D.
Weathering the early wave of momentum the Habs will likely ride thanks to a spirited crowd may be key to this one. From puck drop we’ll want to see that “compete level” Carlyle has been stressing so repeatedly at camp. It’s going to be a hell of a night at the Bell Centre.
Last but not least, and for the first time this season – GO LEAFS GO!