Game Day: Game #3, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers (7...

Game Day: Game #3, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers (7 p.m., City TV)

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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers positions himself in front of the net against James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on April 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Funny how much two games can change.

The context of James Reimer’s first start of 2014-15 is such that he could make the goaltending battle a battle again if he comes out with a big effort tonight in New York. With an effort from his teammates comparable to last night’s, however, he won’t stand much of a chance.

It’s time for the Maple Leafs’ best players to play like their best players. Two Tyler Bozak goals aside, the top line has been nothing short of horrendous to the point of borderline embarrassment; at one point last night, they were hemmed in their own end by the Penguins’ 4th line.

Three players who started big new contracts on Wednesday – Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner – all have to be way better, to put it simply, and it has to start tonight.

With the atmosphere already getting a little toxic at the ACC last night – showers of boos throughout, a jersey thrown on the ice – getting out on the road is probably not the worst thing in the world for the Leafs at the moment. It’s been close to the worst start imaginable for this team after the way it ended last year. The good news is that it’s early enough that a couple of good games can reverse the tide just as easily.

Expect some combination of Frattin, Ashton and Franson to factor back into the lineup for the Leafs. Daniel Winnik played a good game next to Kadri and Lupul on line two — maybe the Leafs’ only halfway-decent line last night — but Brandon Kozun down on line four with Peter Holland and Richard Panik yielded several shifts in the Leaf end.

It doesn’t seem that pairing off Robidas-Phaneuf and Gardiner-Rielly is really getting the most out of any of those players based on the first two games, so whether Carlyle and Horachek opt to alter the dynamics of their pairings remains to be seen.

And could Carlyle be so bold as to switch up the Leafs’ snowed-under top line? It seems doubtful this early, but they’ve really played a very poor last 15 games or so if we date it back to last season.

With Derek Stepan still out for the Rangers, the good news is that the Maple Leafs are up against one of few teams in the League that look as weak as they do at the center position.

The bad news is that the Rangers (1-1-0) opted to start Cam Talbot in last night’s loss versus the Blue Jackets and will therefore start Henrik Lundqvist versus the Leafs tonight. Rick Nash, meanwhile, is off to a hot start with three goals and four points in two games. The Leafs have had good luck shutting Nash down in recent meetings, keeping him off the scoresheet in four consecutive.

Leafs Lines

Peter Horachek Game Day Interview

Maple Leafs vs. Rangers

 LeafsRangers
Record0-2-01-1-0
Goals/Game2.502.50
Goals Against/Game4.503.50
Shots/Game26.025.5
Shots Against/Game36.524.5
Even Strength CF%41.62%46.91%
Team SV%89.83%83.72
Team SH%5.26%11.36%
PDO.951.951
PK%57.1%100%
PP%37.5%0.0%
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]
1202 comments
Bruffins
Bruffins

Anybody know how Jacob Trouba has looked so far this year? 

TorontoMapleLeafs
TorontoMapleLeafs

Percy has been playing a vital role for us. He cannot be taken off the lineup at this point guy has really earned a spot on this team.

Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

super glad Kessel got 3 points tonight 

Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

Love how percy handles the puck. always knew he was gonna be beaut 

Potcy
Potcy

I have 0 doubt Moore fully intended to collide with Reimer.  Absolutely 0 doubt in my mind

TheLoovTrain
TheLoovTrain

@Marlies Man Didn't see Holland's line so much as adjust their jockstraps after being on the ice for the 2nd Rangers goal

Hmmm
Hmmm

@TheLoovTrain He plays as advertised, hard on the puck like a dog on a bone.

leaffan4life
leaffan4life

@Black_Hawk Percy can not be removed out of the lineup.  Who do they sit to get Gardiner back in?

Hmmm
Hmmm

@Jay_Berg As long as they do it with the Cup raised come spring time, I'm fine with that :)

Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

@Jay_Berg yes, still got a long ways to go. 1st line was still terrible in the D zone. 

docmma
docmma

@TheLoovTrain @Marlies Man Holland looked really bad at times tonight.. they won but it might be time soon to rotate one of the other guys into that 4th line center role.

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Still look the exact same as last year outside of the Clarkson line. I see no progress

Knights2Leafs
Knights2Leafs

@Black_Hawk @leaffan4life

You're saying that Rielly and Gards will rotate in and out of the lineup while Percy is full time? That's crazy talk.  I love what Percy is doing but there's no way in hell he's ahead of Rielly.

Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

@Knights2Leafs @Black_Hawk @leaffan4life well percy is playing really well right now. he asked who comes out to get gardner back in and looking that RC gave MR less ice time today, it might be them switching in and out of the lineup. Remember this is RC logic, not real logic lol. 

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

on paper. Obviously the Percy - Polak pairing has been a pleasant surprise but we are still giving up a shit ton of shots and scoring chances

Anthony Petrielli
Anthony Petrielli moderator

@Jay_Berg PIT game was really bad, so need more of a sample. Hopefully the improvement on paper leads to tangible improvement. 

Hmmm
Hmmm

@Jay_Berg Not too worried about being outshot 15-6 in 3rd by Rangers. They played solid hockey with no dumb plays and controlled the game to preserve the win comfortably.

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

If you look at our lineup it's really not that bad. Top to bottom we have decent depth. It's just we are missing that elite centre and/or dman. Teams like Phoenix have found ways in the past to be successful without these. We cannot find a coach and/or system so far to overcome this.

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Sure once we have a 5 goal lead we are unstoppable lol

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Most likely but Phaneuf has been a problem too. We will never get better without an elite centre. This is the recurring problem with no solution....year after year

Anthony Petrielli
Anthony Petrielli moderator

@Jay_Berg If you swapped in Hanzal/Vermette/OEL for Bozak/Kadri/Phaneuf we would be contenders in the East. 


Agree with the overarching point though. 

Hmmm
Hmmm

@Jay_Berg Not last year, but we looked better thus far in preserving leads.

Cameron19
Cameron19

@Jay_Berg Think we could do it with two really good centers rather than 1 elite. And I mean, on top of Kadri

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

You think so eh? Vermette is pretty gross man haha. OEL is a stud but you'd have to hope that the combo of Rielly + Gardiner would be superior to OEL alone by the end of the season. You'd hope...

Anthony Petrielli
Anthony Petrielli moderator

@Jay_Berg Hanzal is awesome man. I'd love that guy here. I don't like Vermette, but he's an effective two-way guy. 

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Hanzel doesn't play with two elite scorers

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Bozak is basically Turtle from Entourage

Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

@Jay_Berg true but thats why i said they were similar instead of saying bozak was better as bozaks stats were alot better production wise. I dont see hanzel doing much better with phil guys then bozie. 

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Agreed but I'm starting to get tired of Phaneuf regardless.