Maple Leafs vs. Anaheim Ducks Preview: Into the Valley of…

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Phil Kessel #81
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 22: Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores his third goal on Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre October 22, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

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:

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:

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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]
  • peterbleafs

    Where are the Perry remarks?

  • Xxxxxnew

    Hope this has a happy ending
    http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/terry-trafford-of-the-saginaw-spirit-is-missing/

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/SportsnetTicker https://twitter.com/SportsnetTicker/status/443127338986119168
    Since https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash Tyler Bozak came back from injury (Dec. 29), Bozak, Kessel & JVR have combined for 85 points in 25 games.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Burtonboy  WOW.

  • Burtonboy

    Alec Brownscombe Burtonboy  Wow is right . Make no wonder Perry said they are currently the best line in the NHL

  • Xxxxxnew

    Can we ban “inconsistent” now or …..

  • Xxxxxnew

    Missing junior hockey player.

  • Kessel81

    Burtonboy  Do you think it is sustainable or a crazy year by Kessel?  I think it is Kessel. I find that JVR and Bozak disappear if Kessel is doing well that game.

  • Burtonboy

    Kessel81 Burtonboy Just the tip of the iceberg IMO

  • Belfour20

    Burtonboy  Hot diggity!

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ Radar O’Rielly

    Do not go to walmart during march break.  Holy ShIT its busy!

  • Cameron19

    Kessel81 Burtonboy  This is his third season performing at this pace.

  • wendelsway1

    Radar O’Rielly  Yuck….can’t think of a good reason to go to Walmart, period.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Radar O’Rielly  Don’t go period is the best approach.

  • LeafsForLife

    If the Leafs play at the top of their game, should be a hell of a good game. but they will need to bring it for the full 60 minutes.
    GO LEAFS GO!

  • Xxxxxnew

    @markhmasters: Asked Boudreau about Bozak line being matched v Getzlaf line in October: “How’d that go?” he responded sarcastically; Kessel had hat trick

  • Xxxxxnew

    Kessel and JVR disappeared when Boxak was out.

  • Loric76

    Burtonboy  and I bet all three know how to spell intensity lol

  • Loric76

    CanuckUKinToronto  in snowstorms uphill both ways

  • Xxxxxnew

    We’ve seen him come back with a 30 goal season after cancer and major shoulder surgery.

  • BingoDabber

    Into the Valley of Death. Great album by a California band. Cool title to the article.
    Hope it’s Life not Death, good sirs.

  • Cameron19

    Anything interesting happen today?

  • wendelsway1

    I like our chances tonight….just wish it wasn’t on Leafs TV.

  • Loric76

    https://twitter.com/LeafsStatsGuy https://twitter.com/LeafsStatsGuy/status/443138323674976257
    Phil Kessel had a hat trick earlier this season against Anaheim on Oct 22 2013; led the https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash to a 4-2 victory.

  • Loric76

    Cameron19  Snuffleupagus joined HNIC

  • Loric76

    https://twitter.com/LeafsStatsGuy https://twitter.com/LeafsStatsGuy/status/443137345047375872
    Jonathan Bernier will start tonight; He’s 3-1-1 in 5 career games against Anaheim. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Loric76 Cameron19  I like Strombo, but have never heard him talk hockey. Anyone know how he is at it?

  • Loric76

    Alec Brownscombe Loric76 Cameron19  he worked for 590 for 5 years apparently

  • Cameron19

    Loric76 Cameron19  Yea, I heard that yesterday. Good and bad news. Good because he’s competent and likable. Bad because he’s a massive Leaf-hating Hab-homer.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Alec Brownscombe Loric76 Cameron19  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAOXIzZ7368

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ Radar O’Rielly

    Alec Brownscombe Radar O’Rielly  Have a couple of kids.

  • B_Leaf

    When watching the Marlies game yesterday I couldn’t help but think Leivo and McKegg were two of the best lookin hockey players in recent memory.

  • Jay31

    CanuckUKinToronto Loric76  No goals in his last 3 games. He is so due

  • Loric76

    Cameron19 Loric76  I have enough respect for him to assume he’ll be neutral and unbiased…more than I can say about the rest of the CBC crew outside of Ron and Don.

  • Loric76

    CanuckUKinToronto Loric76 Cameron19  agreed.

  • Jay31

    B_Leaf  I see Leivo as an NHLer for sure, dunno about McKegg though personally.

  • vinoa

    CanuckUKinToronto  That’s amazing. Dad of the year at least.

  • Loric76

    Radar O’Rielly Alec Brownscombe  I have a couple kids and I don’t go to Walmart period.  I send the wife lol

  • Alec Brownscombe

    http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2014/03/10/randy-carlyle-ana-game-day/ – Carlyle Game Day Interview, it’s a long one

  • JR from Halifax

    What’s up fellas?

  • B_Leaf

    Jay31 B_Leaf  

    I agree, I was just referring to their looks. Those greasy smiles, fancy teeth work, and hockey hair…lol

  • Jay31

    B_Leaf Jay31  Oh shit haha I didn’t know you were speaking literally. My bad

  • B_Leaf

    Jay31 B_Leaf  

    They have that real throw back “dirt bag” hockey look.

  • Belfour20

    I hope JB-45 has a great game tonight, I have never seen a goalie so uunlucky when it comes to shutouts, Bernier could have like 4-5 this season but he gets the most unlucky of bounces, or he has an occasional brain fart, and of course lets not forget that AWESOME DEFENSE in front of him.

  • B_Leaf

    I feel good about our chances going into the game tonight, our boys will pack together and put in a full effort with confidence.

    Here is a little inspiration for the boys:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGbZN4fV4GU

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    B_Leaf  Whooooo!!

  • Yaknowwhat

    82 degrees here in sunny Orlando…spent another day pool side….got a pretty good sun burn now…not missing southern ontario in the slightest…

  • Loric76

    Yaknowwhat  but it’s +5C today! lol

  • Loric76

    Bruffins Loric76 Yaknowwhat  wait till Wednesday…another 4cm expected…

  • Belfour20

    Bruffins Belfour20  Yeah thats the most recent one, probably could of had one vs the Flyers too were it not for a few bad turnovers. He plays like he can get a shutout every time he plays. You can always tell when he’s off his game though, you see stupid shit that you know he would regularly stop go in.