In the next four nights, the Maple Leafs are going to play three teams who they, fortunately, won’t have to meet in the playoffs unless they wind up in the Finals. It’s going to be a stiff pre-playoff test, assuming the Leafs can net 16 of a possible 34 points in their remaining 17 games. These are good measuring stick games coming up this week.
Here were today’s practice lines:
Lines at Leafs skate: JVR-Bozak-Kessel; Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin; Raymond-Holland-Bodie; McLaren-McClement-Orr; Ashton-Bolland-Clarkson
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 10, 2014
While both are back practicing with the team, it seems unlikely the Leafs will actually play both enforcers given the 7D/11F formula has been getting results as of late. The options are there within the organization to put together a decent 4th line capable of more than a couple of minutes. Evidently, Carlyle feels he rather up the minutes for his scoring options in the top 9. Given the Leafs are on pace to have six 20-goal scorers in their lineup, there is some sense in dispersing the extra minutes among them. It’s in these back to back situations where it becomes a particularly pointed debate as to whether or not the Leafs should be running the odd 7D/11F set up along with a two-minute enforcer (assuming one of Colton Orr or Frazer McLaren plays). If both enforcers play, the same questions apply, really, except the Leafs can’t share the minutes around a little more on the backend, either.
The Anaheim Ducks are the second-best team in hockey (43-14-7, 119-point pace) and simply one of the best run organizations in the League, with a great current team and one of the best prospect stables. Along the best center-winger tandem in hockey both drafted by the Ducks late in the first round (Perry and Getzlaf, who have combined for 135 points in 64 games) and an embarrassment of riches found in net over the past couple of years, the Ducks are also confident enough in their depth that they don’t have a regular below 11 and a half minutes in average TOI. They have plenty of productive natural centers, so much so they dealt Peter Holland. If there’s a positional weakness it’s that they’re leaning on quite a bit of inexperience on D. Bob Murray added the defensive acumen and experience of Stephane Robidas at the deadline, although his return date is still unknown.
Speaking of Peter Holland, it’s the first time Holland and Carlyle will return to Anaheim as members of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joffrey Lupul has played in Anaheim as a Leaf once since getting traded, a 5-2 win back in November of 2011 in which he tallied a pair of assists. Jake Gardiner was a +2 in that game. The moneyboard will be full up tonight.
The two teams met back in October, a come-from-behind 4-2 Leafs win in Game 10 of the season. The Leafs were getting dominated for the first half of the game, so much so their first shot on net (a wrist shot from the blueline with no traffic in front via Paul Ranger) received a derisive cheer from the crowd, but the Leafs managed to grab a powerplay goal, capitalize on some bad pinches/turnovers and generate some offence off the rush in transition. The Leafs scored four unanswered including a Phil Kessel hat trick and Phaneuf’s second of the season.
The Ducks were the hottest team in the NHL come late October (and have obviously remained one). The Leafs garnered some post-game praise from Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy, seemingly awe struck with the Leafs’ speed and skill that night:
“They’re so fast, so skilled and we got away from our game and turned pucks over. And they were able to come back at us and killed us in the second half of that game. They’re deadly, they’re a transition team. They have so much speed, and we fed pucks right into their system.”
Corey Perry, meanwhile, today shared some thoughts on his ex coach Randy Carlyle. Sentiments “Leafs Twitter” is definitely fully in agreement on:
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) March 10, 2014
Apparently fans came from the stands to help? Doctor perhaps? That'd be special if its true... cant wait to hear the full story and hope he recovers well
Im so interested to see Calrkson play tonight... this is as PLAOFF a game were gonna play, top team, points crucial... this is the last straw now
Is it juts me or does this thing (Peverly and heart conditions) seem to be happening more frequently with athletes? Not just hockey, futbol/soccer players have collapsed same with basketball players. So scary.
@Mortagleus leafs tv or maybe a stream if u want
@MaxwellHowe No kidding, got to get up at 5 so hopefully I wake up to a win.
@Loric76 Genius stuff here. Obviously he wants to give the Ducks a chance against us.
@Loric76 I'l wait til the game starts to decide who is actually playing
@ingy56 like I said, not a guy you would suspect to have a problem with his heart
@ingy56 Wow. What a guy.
@ingy56 Still no Bolland eh
@rustynail Just looking at the Ducks roster and wondering how they do it. They have some top-end talent for sure but lots of contributions throughout the lineup form some lesser known names. Full marks to Boudreau.
@rustynail Leafs added Gunner as a full time assistant captain now?
@DJBrianBurke a soccer player died on the field recently no?
@Bon Scott was a Leaf fan That's some sweet ass leftovers.
@rustynail Clarkson fine, Orr I'd rather not. Bodie is doing a hell of a job as the enforcer/player role.
@wiski who was it last year or was it this year on the Leafs taking out his own teammates? lol
@wiski booooooooo ugh.