The Leafs are in Pittsburgh tonight for what should be their stiffest test of the young season. The Leafs have won just once in their last five visits to the Consol Energy Centre. A frontrunner in the East, Pittsburgh has Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang all healthy and in the lineup to start the season and are currently 2-0-0 with nine goals scored.
Crosby and Malkin have averaged over two points per game against the Leafs at home, and it goes without saying that facing a team with Crosby leading one line (alongside Kunitz and Dupuis) and Malkin with James Neal on another is the definition of matchup hell, especially for a traveling coach with the last change. Even without Crosby for significant durations of the schedule, the Penguins were the winningest home team in the East last season with 29 victories at the Consol. It will be interesting to watch Mike Kostka play big-time minutes against two of the best in the game tonight in just his third NHL outing.
Goals haven’t come as easy for the Leafs through the first two games, and as much as it was the Ryan Miller show on Monday, the focus will be on making life a little harder on the opposition’s goaltender in order to turn more shots into goals (61 SOG, 3 GF so far). One imagines the Leafs will have to put up at least three to give themselves a chance tonight.
We’ll just hope they keep it competitive tonight and regard any points as a bonus. I’ll assume Ben Scrivens will start before James Reimer makes his season debut against the Islanders back at home tomorrow, because why hand Reimer his first start since last April in Pittsburgh?
There’s rumblings of Nazem Kadri, projected 48-goal scorer (that’s the math talking, not me), moving up a line tonight. Either way, Carlyle has been vowing to get him more icetime if his standout play continues. Early returns from Naz have been great, but let’s hope to hear more out of the likes of MacArthur, Grabovski, Kulemin and Lupul.
Some game day links…
Leafs’ Jake Gardiner packs his bags for Pittsburgh
Sounds like there’s some chance Jake Gardiner could play tonight. Carlyle has indicated the team will still carry eight defencemen upon his return, but that means one must go once Jake’s back.
If you missed it last night, there’s rumblings of Wayne Gretzky becoming the next Leafs President. My understanding is that the President’s position is more about being an ambassador for the team and schmoozing it up with corporate sponsors and the like. I suppose it would be fitting in a way to have to the best player to ever play the game represent the biggest brand in hockey. Not that I think the Leafs need any help off the ice (or care about such endeavours).
Carlyle wants more out of James van Riesmdyk
Randy wants JvR to drive the net a little more.
Leafs face questions, shuffle lines heading into Pittsburgh
Article mentions that Holzer would be waiver bound, but I’m not so sure that’s true. Unless I ran the waiver calculation wrong on capgeek, he should be exempt for one more season.