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

1196
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%
  • loomx

    I wonder how the mood will change if the Leafs dominate and win 4-0?

  • drummond

    A bold prediction – a loss, 0-3 record to start the season, Armagedon starts

  • Zep2

    Biggest game of the year lol

  • deedrag

    loomx  Not much. They still don’t have a contender and have been wasting time over the years trying to build one. Patience is not their strong point.

  • Mcost61

    loomx  lose 2 and win one , it will take more than that to make it right

  • Xxxxxnew

    Kadri’s line wasn’t too bad last night but Naz has got to stop turning to dangle on the blueline and forcing his,linemates offside.

  • deedrag

    Well at least we’re in good position for a 2nd or first draft pick this season. If they are not going to make the playoffs, at least preserve that position and try to get maybe 2 more picks through trades. They say it’s a good draft class to chose from this year. Build a dynasty Shanny, I the patience for that. I don’t want a repeat of the usual crap we have to put up with, knowing we’re not getting anywhere.

  • deedrag

    Xxxxxnew  He needs to stick to the basics along with the others to help them get over this hump!

  • Mcost61

    deedrag  Building a core, first we need to define who is the core. Reily is part of it

  • Bruffins

    Mcost61 deedrag
    Im sure we will be saying he isn’t in 3 years lol

  • Mcost61

    Toronto Marlies ‏@TorontoMarlies https://twitter.com/TorontoMarlies/status/521374841942052864
    https://twitter.com/hashtag/MarliesLive?src=hash Scratches: Bibeau, Mikkelson, Finn, Broll, Rupert, Biggs, Orr, McLaren, Knodel, Kessel, Vail.

  • Leafs_17

    Xxxxxnew and remember this defensive duties as a center

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

    Mcost61 Biggs eh, yeah, he should get better by watching.

  • Cloud09

    Mcost61 deedrag Lol, been building a core for half a decade now.

  • Cloud09

    Xxxxxnew Could be the coaches pushing the team to carry in the puck instead of chip and chase and this is the result.

  • Billy-Action

    Anybody have a live stream for the Marlies game.

  • Xxxxxnew

    That’s definitely part of it, but the three instances I saw he suddenly turned and stick handled east-west before he was over the blueline as his wingers entered the zone.

  • WendelGilmour

    ingy56 Mcost61 11 scratches? Looks like the Marlies are still figuring out who stays Gotta think this is a critical year for Biggs. I’m not sure how much patience he will get.

  • TML__fan

    Certainly like Gardiner and Rielly’s skating and puck-handling capabilities, but they have yet to consistently demonstrate that they can win puck battles in their own end, and move aggressive forwards away from the front of the net. So why pair these guys up??
    The forwards (especially the top lines) have to live up to some defensive responsibilities.  Too many times we see guys chasing around trying to get the puck back, feebly poke-checking, or trying to catch up after turning over the puck.  Its not too late to correct this, but it is unsettling that these types of things are repeating themselves after haunting the team all last year.  New coaches, new players, but some of the “core” problems continue.

    Get it together boys…  Randy’s leash is already short enough.

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

    WendelGilmour ingy56 Mcost61 Obviously still a lot of bodies around, but I have to believe the guy has to put in a stretch of games at least.

  • WendelGilmour

    ingy56 WendelGilmour Mcost61 Oh yeah, I agree.

  • loomx

    ingy56 Mcost61 Well, he hasn’t been getting better by playing.

  • TML__fan

    Heres what Chara said after losing to Washington last night.  Pahenuf could have said something similar about Leafs loss to Pittsburgh.
    “We just got
    embarrassed and I think we all have to really look at what we can start
    doing better and really take pride in that because a game like tonight
    is not acceptable. For sure it’s something that we have to correct
    really fast because you can be saying whatever you want, its early in
    the season but these games are as important as a game in the mid season
    or end of the season, so everybody has to be a lot better.”

  • deedrag

    One of the biggest problems they have is they look like novice players when handling the puck. They all crowd around together not giving the puck carrier options to pass to. They are doing the swarm even when on offence. Spread out and play monkey in the middle with the other teams players. This might be because of the system or the players not having enough common sense. Even their own player said it best. Robidas”It doesn’t matter which league you’re in, if you don’t win 1-on-1 battles you’re not going to win too many games.” There’s no swarm in one on one battles!!!!! Spread out and cover your assignment.

  • sniperstar

    Xxxxxnew Could also be a result of being down and him thinking. I’ve got to do something with it so we can get back in this game.

  • sniperstar

    loomx If we win tonight in a commanding fashion. You can be sure people’s attitudes will change quickly.

  • Great Dane

    sniperstar loomx I’m afraid not. I will stick to guns which I have done since November last year

  • Mitch92

    Xxxxxnew and Kessel has to start using his linemates instead of forcing them to stop up or go off-side.

  • Xxxxxnew

    They’re playing Horachuk’s system already.

  • Cameron19

    TML__fan I find the biggest problem to be the short passes they try to make in their own zone. I don’t know if it’s all on them, or it’s a product of the system, or the forwards are just out of position, or what – but watch how often all our defenders struggle to move the puck 10-15 feet to a friendly stick. When they use the boards especially it’s like the pass is always way too hard and the forwards need to knock it down while in flight, or way too soft, and the forwards have to stop and double back to get it, in which case the opposing forecheckers have a head start and usually win the race/battle as a result.

    This is true in the offensive zone, too, and tends to the cycle being broken without the other team even really doing anything. 

    I think if you fixed this up a little bit, net presence wouldn’t be as big of a deal, because we’d be up and out of the zone quicker. We also wouldn’t be chasing in our zone as much, so you wouldn’t notice them struggling to take their man out with poke checks and so forth.

  • Fish Head

    WendelGilmour ingy56 Mcost61 Biggs needs a change of scenery. If we need a finishing touch to complete a trade I think Biggs could be that piece.

  • Xxxxxnew

    No doubt. Overthinking in a bad spot on the ice.

  • Xxxxxnew

    I hate when a play going out of our zone stalls a bit and half the players stop moving their feet, so the other teams players are swarming and we’re standing still. Or a in bunch of cases last night, the way our forwards headed out of our zone when one of our D barely had control,ofmthenpuck.

  • TML__fan

    Cameron19 This same thing haunted the team most of last year.  They struggle when the opposition forechecks hard and limits their time with the puck.  Opposition outworks them along the boards and cuts off their outlet guys so they either turn over the puck or get bottled in their own end.  Passing is part of the problem, but they also have to move quicker and to open areas.  Too many times they advance the puck along the side boards to a forward who is already covered, or loses the puck battle when checked.  Teams will keep flooding the side the puck is on until the Leafs show they move the puck away to an open area.

  • Mitch92

    MikeGartner11 loomx ingy56 Mcost61 J.C. Petite

  • WendelGilmour

    Xxxxxnew Some are anyway.

  • Xxxxxnew

    You beat everyone else to it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/bobbybaun BaunBomb

    Anyone happen to have career stats for Nash against Toronto? I feel like historically he buries us…which could be a bad sign for tonight. Having said that, we were competitive against the Rags last year so…here’s hoping I guess?

  • Luke_R

    BaunBomb 1-6-1 in last 8 vs Rags

  • Mitch92

    BaunBomb He killed us with Columbus when I took my family to a game a few years ago, three point night I believe.  I think he likes playing in Toronto much like Gretzky did!

  • http://www.twitter.com/bobbybaun BaunBomb

    Mitch92 BaunBomb Yea that’s kind of what I remembered too…remember thinking “Oh well, Nash has played like garbage this year” and then he comes in and has a stunner against us. Just like Crosby. Just like every star who wants to shine when most of Canada is watching…

  • http://www.twitter.com/bobbybaun BaunBomb

    Luke_R BaunBomb …so what you’re saying is I should switch to hard liquor now…?

  • Mitch92

    BaunBomb Mitch92 Toronto, where the stars come to shine!

  • Luke_R

    BaunBomb Luke_R sambuca, ouzo

  • Luke_R

    Mitch92 BaunBomb but not play for!

  • Zeus_WilliamMapleLeafs

    Mitch92 BaunBomb 
    Our GM should come out and say just that.
    Toronto is where stars come to shine but none have the bollox to make it their home.

  • Xxxxxnew

    My annual Rick Nash reminder:

  • Luke_R

    Zeus_WilliamMapleLeafs Mitch92 BaunBomb people want to play here when theyre good…. but not when they suck…. its a vicious cycle…. cause we need them to become good.

  • Luke_R

    Gotta say, Brown and McDavid would be sweet again in the NHL

  • Xxxxxnew

    I can’t see why Toronto would be an attractive organization for players at this point.