Game Preview: Leafs look to break down the Wild

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Tonight, the Leafs will look to crack the tough nut known as the Minnesota Wild, who will almost definitely be bringing a tight, contained road game into the ACC for game six of the regular season.

The Wild are currently the best shot preventing team in the league with under 22 shots allowed per game after six games. They’ve been excellent at 5 on 5, outscoring opponents 2:1 at evens. So, they’ve pretty much been the opposite of the Leafs, who eat shots for breakfast and are thriving on special teams excellence at the moment.

 LeafsWild
Record5-1-03-1-2
GF/G3.67 (4th)2.67 (16th)
GA/G2.5 (13th)2.0 (6th)
SF/G30.8 (15th)30.3 (17th)
SA/G34.2 (25th)21.7 (1st)
PP29.2% (6th)30.8% (5th)
PK90.9% (2nd)72.7% (24th)
5 on 5 F/A1.08 (15th)2.0 (5th)

The two teams are also opposites in the sense that the Wild are tied for first in the NHL in faceoff proficiency at 57.9%. The Leafs are sitting with a paltry 45.7% success rate at the moment. Mikko Koivu and Kyle Brodziak are hovering around 60% on the dot; the Leafs’ top three centers are all under 50%.

The ridiculous contract given to Ryan Suter by the Wild last summer has been as close to earned as is possible so far this season, one would think. Suter’s 28:39 leads the league in TOI/g; Suter is playing nearly a full minute more than the second-most-played defenceman Dennis Seidenberg. Together with Jonas Brodin, the Wild have as good of a top pairing as there is in the league at the moment. Brodin’s 5 points have him 6th among defencemen in scoring.

Minnesota’s presumptive starter Josh Harding has a .948 save percentage, 1.06 GAA and a 3-1-0 record so far this season. Update: Darcy Kuemper is expected to start for the Wild; Kuemper has only made three career starts: 1-2-0 with a 2.08 GAA and .916 SV%.

One area of weakness in the Wild’s game at the moment is on the penalty kill, which is in the low 70s. The Leafs’ third-ranked powerplay may be the key to a win tonight when they do get the opportunity; the Wild do not take many penalties, having only spent 13:27 at 4 v 5 over 6 games. The Wild are also playing their second game in as many nights, having beat Buffalo last night 2-1.

Hopefully the Leafs won’t be forced to try to break the Wild down without the assistance of leading goal scorer (tied with Lupul) James van Riemsdyk. JvR is currently a game time decision. JvR is one goal off the league lead at the moment with five on the season and has been a consistent force for the Leafs.

At the ready in case JvR can’t play is Trevor Smith, recalled today from the Marlies. Smith could center the fourth line, with Lupul joining Kessel and Bozak on the top unit and McClement shifting to the third line wing, but that’s just my guess and one of a few possibilities.

James Reimer returns to the net for the Leafs tonight for his third appearance of the season. He hasn’t played since a poor second period outing against the Senators in the third game of the season, back on October 5th. I’m a big fan of this choice from Carlyle; it strays from the win-and-you’re in model and keeps the fire burning in the bellies of both goaltenders. Bernier didn’t lose, but he was much less than perfect on Saturday, and so it seems a great opportunity to keep the goaltenders really pushing one another.

It could be a tight game tonight akin to the Avalanche loss, so, unlike Saturday vs. the Oilers, any one bad goal could be all the more magnified. Let’s see how Reimer responds.

***

Projected Starting Lines:

Maple Leafs Lines vs Minnesota Wild

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Minnesota Wild, Oct. 15th, 2013
Leafs Lineup  
Left WingCenterRight Wing
LupulBozakKessel
RaymondBollandLeivo
McClementKadriBroll
AshtonSmithOrr
JvR out
Left DefenseRight Defense
PhaneufGunnarsson
RiellyFranson
GardinerRanger
Goalies
Starter: Reimer
Bernier

***

Last Meeting:

  • george

    Great primer!
    I hope Reimer keeps the goaltending battle going all year long.. a bad outing here and right back to Bernier could sideline him for some time.

  • mORRganRielly

    I guess the fact that Harding’s numbers are unsustainable and Reimer’s numbers can only go up should make this a game in which the outcome should favour the Leafs.  At least I hope so.  The team can’t do much worse than they played on Saturday night.  
    Go Leafs Go!

  • Mind Bomb

    Big Win, at home, against a team on a Back to Back, this is a momentum maker. We need to be 6-1 and bank these points, these are invaluable come spring. This is were a Playoff Contender wins. 
    4-2 Leafs with an empty Netter, Rielly with the Winner !

  • mORRganRielly

    CanuckUKinToronto Oooo, I didn’t know that.  I thought it was confirmed!  Guess it’s Backstrom?

  • mORRganRielly

    CanuckUKinToronto Actually, it’s Kuemper.  Never mind.  He’s good.

  • lieffan

    Let’s test this Kuemper fucker early and often!

  • Loric76

    CanuckUKinToronto McLaren will be back by then too, so all three will sit.  The spot that was up for grabs by the bubble guys was snagged by Raymond.
    That said, of the three I think Broll stays in the lineup as the 13th forward

  • Greg Fenton

    This will be an interesting offense vs defense match up

  • Xxxxxnew

    Minnesota is paying Suter, Koivu and Parise $31.2 million this season.

  • Loric76

    Mind Bomb you’re not thinking big enough…imagine the momentum an 81-1-0 season would create going into the playoffs lol

  • Mind Bomb

    Loric76 Mind Bomb They would Conceed :)

  • Bring the Cup Home

    Loric76 Mind Bomb  
    i find that so unrealistic to point out as a possibility.  we are only on pace for a 69 – 12 season or thereabouts!!!!!!

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    https://twitter.com/mirtle/status/390210704906526720

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    DeclanK Nono aint no dummy

  • Great Dane

    DeclanK Great – Leafs are finally in a position where Nonis can demand his price and not just have to take the best offer in the market.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    CanuckUKinToronto 
    Does she play bingo??

  • lukethenuke

    https://twitter.com/RealKyperhttps://twitter.com/RealKyper/status/390215950407958528
    https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash bringing in long time https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Predators&src=hash C Jerred Smithson on a AHL tryout for https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Marlies&src=hash
    Retweeted by https://twitter.com/mirtle

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Great Dane DeclanK 
    Fuck the market!!
    Gards goes no where!!

  • Jmessih

    lukethenuke Great move in my mind

  • Xxxxxnew

    OK. Add Dany Heatly $7.5 million (21 points last year) $1 million in buyouts this season.

  • lukethenuke

    Jmessih lukethenuke why not eh?

  • Greg Fenton

    Great Dane DeclanK I think thats how many GM’s would start – start high, start above what you want so you have some place to work to.

  • Jmessih

    Don’t know if this has been posted yet or not, but I didn’t see ithttps://twitter.com/Russostribhttps://twitter.com/Russostrib/status/390210986390847488
    I have confirmed Darcy Kuemper as https://twitter.com/search?q=%23mnwild&src=hash starter Retweeted by https://twitter.com/mirtle

  • Great Dane

    Greg Fenton  DeclanK  Aæways good negotiation tactic. The big difference is that the other GMs want our player, not that the Leafs GM is desperate to make a move.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    lukethenuke any word on what this guys claim to fame is?

  • Xxxxxnew

    If they want Guards they have to give up something that makes the Leafs a better team. Why make an even-up deal at this point that that doesn’t improve the team?

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Great Dane Greg Fenton DeclanK 
    Unless Gardiner is part of a package to land a true stud 1C (like a Duchene or someone of that ilk…no, not a Stasny)….I really don’t see the point in trading Gardiner.

  • Great Dane

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Great Dane Greg Fenton DeclanK Fully agree.  Giroux would be ideal and he has 1 assist in 6 games. 
    The poor guy just signed for 8 years.

  • B_Leaf

    Dangle_My_Berries lukethenuke 
    Smithson is a 34 year old F with good size. He plays C a lot and is good on the dot. He finishes his checks. He is a defensive player. He is a good pick up in my opinion. Depending on injuries he could step in and do a job for us

  • Greg Fenton

    Great Dane Greg Fenton DeclanK But you still start out asking for way more then he is worth and more then what you’d settle for.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    with the wild dressing a backup tonight, we gotta get in there and shell that guy hard, there will be rebounds

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    B_Leaf Dangle_My_Berries lukethenuke won me over already, sweet sweet depth

  • Loric76

    Bring the Cup Home Loric76 Mind Bomb lol meh.  the one loss was an outlier.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Colorado seems to have their defensive zone figured out so far in this years’ small sample. 4 goals against in five games. Edmonton’s allowed 29.

  • B_Leaf

    We haven’t seen the Leafs play a good game yet…Hopefully tonight we play right and get the result. Go Reimer.

  • Greg Fenton

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Great Dane Greg Fenton DeclanK That kind of deal isn’t going to happen. The Avs aren’t moving Duchene and teams like the Avs aren’t moving their top young players. That doesn’t mean there isn’t/wouldn’t be a good deal for a good center that improves the Leafs out there. 
    What if, for example, the Sharks were willing to giveup Pavalski for Gardiner? A better centerman then Bozak for sure, good for 25 goals and 60-ish points. Good wheels. Good defensively and can kill penalities……

  • Great Dane

    CanuckUKinToronto Great Dane Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Greg Fenton DeclanK it is about time for the flyers.
    Reimer, Liles and 1st round pick for Giroux and Mason – that should be the going rate LOL

  • Xxxxxnew

    I hate when backups come in.

  • .JVR.

    Jmessih 
    One of the probable starting goalie sites I use had that up hours ago.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Xxxxxnew i know what you mean, but with the way we can score goals, we should be able to get to this guy early

  • B_Leaf

    Dangle_My_Berries B_Leaf lukethenuke 
    He is 6′-3″ 209.  Maybe he plays fourth line C so McClement can move up in line up. Add in some PK and some key faceoffs and he could play a part.

  • .JVR.

    DeclanK 
    That’s pretty obvious, considering Gardiner was the breaking point in the rumoured Rick Nash deal.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Greg Fenton Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Great Dane DeclanK 
    No thanks.  More than happy to keep Gardiner.  1C or nothing….and I’m more than happy to keep him.

  • JMAC17

    B_Leaf The Nashville game was pretty complete.

  • Greg Fenton

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Greg Fenton Great Dane DeclanK  OVerpayment and/or unrealistic return or nothing is kind of a non-starter when it comes to trade talk.

  • Greg Fenton

    B_Leaf Nashville was pretty good.

  • Xxxxxnew

    I hate the way unknown factor backups can conjure up the magic for a game or two. Always feel better if we get the first one early.

  • Komas Taberle

    lukethenuke Good move he will help Marlies for sure, he is very good on face offs and add size and toughness.

  • B_Leaf

    Greg Fenton B_Leaf 
    Bernier held us in there early.

  • .JVR.

    CanuckUKinToronto 
    Does it really matter if Alec has him penciled into the lineup?
    He’s not the one making the decision and if van Riemsdyk isn’t ready to go, he won’t be playing.