Preview and GDT: Maple Leafs at Penguins (7 p.m., Sportsnet)

Preview and GDT: Maple Leafs at Penguins (7 p.m., Sportsnet)

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A great win over the League champs can quickly be forgotten if the Leafs don’t take it as a turnaround point amid a poor December. They’re now through  the toughest part of their schedule and have to get back to accumulating points with 15 of their next 16 games against Eastern opponents.

The top 4 of this Penguins team’s defence has been decimated (i.e. entirely eliminated) by injuries (Martin, Letang, Orpik, Scuderi), and their fifth D, Derek Engelland, is waiting to be suspended. James Neal is suspended, as well. Evgeni Malkin is out after crashing into the boards leg first against Detroit. For tonight’s game, check out the NHL betting odds.

Despite all the lineup depletion, the Pens enter tonight winners of three straight (five of their last six). The Penguins historically have persevered better than expected when faced with significant injuries, although these are particularly daunting.

Malkin being out should help the Leafs focus their shutdown efforts a little more on #87. McClement, playing alongside Kulemin and D’Amigo, played 10 of his 14 and a half even strength minutes against Jonathan Toews, Parick Sharp and Marian Hossa while starting 80% of his shifts in the defensive zone. That line scored twice and won the possession battle.

For the Leafs, the lineup remains the same because why wouldn’t it?

JVR-Kadri-Kessel
Raymond-Holland-Lupul
D’Amigo-McClement-Kulemin
McLaren-Smith-Bodie

Gunnarsson-Phaneuf
Gardiner-Franson
Rielly-Liles

Bernier

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
1077 comments
Cloud09
Cloud09

You ice one of the youngest teams in the league there are always going to be lots of hiccups and growing pains. Lots of pieces, but not enough to have a consistent winner. I really think we need to lower our expectations of this team. They sure as shit aren't winning the cup. With the east as bad as it is the playoffs should be the goal. Build off these experiences but lets not run these kids into the ground. Kadri-23, JVR-24, Gardiner-23, Rielly-19, Bernier-25, Reimer-25, these are our budding stars but lets get a reality check on how old these guys are. Personally I think Nonis needs to bring in more proven winners, character guys who know when it's time to step it up and put it into another gear when the time is right. Bolland is that type of guy and it showed in his limited time. Clarkson was brought in to do the same but I think he is more of a follower rather than an initiator. Mike Richards is another one that comes to mind. And I know it's been beaten to death but even Grabo had that kind of drive in him. With the cap the way it is this season I can't see the Leafs bringing in anymore help so we are going to have to get used to nights like this, as frustrating as it is.  

Zep2
Zep2

My argument about the PP is besides the point


Too many passengers. 1st line, Kadri had a good game, wingers were uninterested

2nd line was uniny=terested

3rd line good for the most part. Kulie misses gaping net. 

 Defense moved the puck beautifully for 57 or 58 minutes. Needless icing ends up leading to winner. 

Good nite folks

Cameron19
Cameron19

I'd like to see JVR at the net, Kessel and Gardiner on the left side, and Kadri and Phaneuf on the right side.

-

Then Clarkson at the net,, with Lupul and Rielly on the left side, and Bolland and Franson on the right side. 

NotSince67
NotSince67

Gotta get off here... disappointing losses lead to a lot of stones thrown...

Things are never as good or bad as they seem unless we're talking 2013 ECQF Game 7.

Zep2
Zep2

We were 1 for 6 on the PP and the 19 year old scored.


Gardiner and Rielly are being misused on the PP. If Dion needs #1PP time to feed his ego then its time to cut him loose


Ive said since LAST SPRING that he should be on the 2nd pair


Nothing changed my mind tonite

loomx
loomx

LOL Ottawa beat St. Louis.

Cameron19
Cameron19

@Cloud09 Agreed, The goal should be to try and find a way to add guy at every tentpole of the season. Deadline, free agency, off-season trade. 

NotSince67
NotSince67

@Cloud09 Andrew Ference is a right handed shot I think. That'd be a great pick up if EDM didn't sign him to a big deal.

NotSince67
NotSince67

@Cameron19 Bozak over Bolland, I think it's probably prudent to save Bolland to match against the top line coming out after the kill. At this point I'd play Holland, give him sheltered, defensive free offensive shifts so he can use that shot.

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

80 percent of his career goals scored before coming to Toronto

NotSince67
NotSince67

@Pent_House CAn't, we were down a goal. That hack has nowhere to run to but the A.

Another night.

Cloud09
Cloud09

@Pent_House Down a goal what do you want them to do, forget the win so they can get some payback?? I get where you're coming from but not the right time for it. 

Cloud09
Cloud09

@Cameron19 Last summer didn't help much with Clarkson and Bozak taking up almost $10M in cap. Really think Nonis needs to offload Bozak to bring in more pieces, if Bolland is going to stick around he needs to go. Going into the summer you have to think these are the holes upfront that need to be filled. 


JVR-Kadri-Kessel

Lupul-_____-____

Kulemin-Bolland-Clarkson

______-McClement-______


3rd line is set but gonna be the most expensive in the league :S


_____-Phaneuf

Gardiner_____

Rielly-_____


The back end is gonna need a lot of work as well, if Phaneuf doesn't come back there is some cash to work with but not much in FA.

Cameron19
Cameron19

@JR from Halifax 69%, but that's not the same for points and powerplay assists. Scoring by defenders has also changed dramatically league wide since then. Shot blocking has made it very difficult for defenders to score. 

Cameron19
Cameron19

@JR from Halifax Except for the fact that he's basically the top point producing defender over the last 8 years, and one of the most successful on the PP, and that our PP ranks #3 in the league with him eating the most minutes.  Other than those things, yea, it makes no sense. 

Cameron19
Cameron19

@JR from Halifax Also didn't play against top pairs in Calgary, and got a lot of sheltered ice time.  Just the reality of moving up the roster - much like Doughty. 

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

Anyway I have to be up at 5......need to go sleep for now

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

87 goals in Calgary and I suspect gets a lot more ice time here

Cameron19
Cameron19

@JR from Halifax He scored 75 goals in 378 games for the Flames (0.19 goals per game).  He has scored 33 in 255 games for us (0.13 goals per game).


JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

It's 80 percent and I don't think he is really setting up our pp up there.....playing catch with Phil. Change the pp so there is one shooter and one of Gards or Rielly on each unit and I'm happy.

If Franson could get back to hitting the net with that half slapper we would be all set because phaneuf isn't missing high and wide like he used to.

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

Haha yeah.....no I saw all the hot Xmas avatars on here and decided to change things up is all

Cameron19
Cameron19

@JR from Halifax Yea, that's a super reasonable expectation.  We should just be scoring on every third powerplay! 

Cameron19
Cameron19

@Zep2 @Bruffins @Cameron19 @Belfour20 So put one of them out there with him instead of Franson. What has Franson done?  People are mad that Kessel and Dion play pass all night, but don't realize the reason is that Franson can't be trusted to quarterback anything. 

Zep2
Zep2

@Bruffins @Cameron19 @Belfour20 No , but we shouldn't relegate Rielly and Gardiner to the 2nd unit until Dion is 40 or decides to retire.


Dions overall game is the best we have right now on D no question .But there are e guys ahead of him and a rookie nipping at his heels on the offensive side of the puck

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

The whole league took his point shot away and the rush him knowing he is prone to making bad passes when under that pressure at the point

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

But unfortunately that's not how they setup the pp, the need a better playmaker up there which Dion isn't. Go with a point shot and traffic then I would keep Dion where he is but our forwards won't stand in front of the net

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

I would love Gards with phaneuf at even strength too. Let them both do what their suited to do.

Cameron19
Cameron19

@NotSince67 @Cameron19 @JR from Halifax It should be Gardiner/Phaneuf, Rielly/Franson, or Rielly/Phaneuf and Gardiner/Franson. It's not fucking rocket science. Franson can't quarterback at all.  His only move is to shoot for the tip, or the JVR pass.  Kesesl and Phaneuf are predictable because they're the only puck carriers on the unit. Either they need to find a way to get Kadri circling up and grabbing the puck, or they need to split the pairs up. 

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

If we are going to use him to shoot then leave hm there but we don't shoot from the point. All he does is the little flip to Phil. it's why he had two goals this yr

JR from Halifax
JR from Halifax

It's not 2005 any more, he is checked on that shot too often and doesn't have other offensive tools. I'm ok with that as his defensive game is the best now it's ever been

NotSince67
NotSince67

@loomx @NotSince67 @Pent_House Are you actully saying the best thing for the team there was for somebody to take a rough or an instigator?

Think about the game situation, down by one with less than 6 to go. 

NotSince67
NotSince67

@Cloud09 @Yaknowwhat @Pent_House As much as it sucks to see D'Amigo get corked twice in 5 minutes by the same guy, you gotta keep your composure in crunch time when the game is on the line...

Believe me someone woulda done it if we had been up by two but we didn't buy ourselves the cushion to do it.

newkb
newkb

@Yaknowwhat @Pent_House @Cloud09 That is what made the Leafs so scary to play against last year.....and the reason they have been targeted by the refs this moreso year. 

Cloud09
Cloud09

@Yaknowwhat @Pent_House @Cloud09 He got nailed by two clean checks... Take the number and get him in the next game, if the Leafs wanted to make a statement they should have upped the tempo and brought it to the Pens.