Randy Carlyle will ice a new look lineup tonight for the Leafs’ big test against Pittsburgh in the Penguins’ home opener.
As we wait for the official lineup, it appears the only constants from Monday against Buffalo is the pairing of Mike Kostka/Dion Phaneuf and perhaps the fourth line. The Leafs will get a needed boost with the addition of Jake Gardiner, who will make his 2013 debut. Korbinian Holzer has been sent down to the Marlies.
James Reimer takes the crease tonight for his first start of the season in a curious decision by Carlyle. With Scrivens doing nothing to play his way out of the net as of yet, I would’ve thought the Isles game tomorrow night would’ve been the better way to ease in a goaltender who finished last season low on confidence and hasn’t played since March 23 of 2012. Not a Pens team replete with all of their offensive juggernauts (Crosby, Malkin, Letang all healthy), in the home opener for the winningest home team in the East last season.
The thinking behind it might be Reimer’s good (albeit obviously short) history against the Pens with a 2-0-1 record and a .926 save percentage in three games against Pittsburgh, but all of those games were during the Leafs’ stretch run at the end of the 2010-11 season, back when he was Optimus. I know what you’re thinking – NHL competition is NHL competition, good goalies must be good against good teams, there’s no sense in putting too much thought into sheltering a goaltender.. but it’s hard to imagine a tougher matchup for a goalie already in precarious circumstances.
Up front, JvR and MacArthur have switched places. Of course, as far as line combinations go, things could and in all likelihood will change throughout the course of the night as Carlyle attempts to account for the three-headed monster of Crosby, Malkin and Neal and also find a way to get the Leafs generating more offense of their own after scoring just three in their opening two games.
There’s no real way to “match up” all the Pens’ weapons except by playing an especially good game of team defence. Perhaps we see a little more of Jay McClement tonight, who was brought in for his shutdown qualities. Grabovski is of course going to play a lot of tough minutes and has been instructed by Carlyle to add more “fire and tenacity” to his game, to which Grabovski of course offered a hilarious response: “I need to put gas in my tank.”
If I’m Carlyle, I show Grabovski this clip of the little-known but awesome paintballing comedy Blackballed, and let Rob Riggle do the talking:
Here is the projected Leafs lineup: