A struggling Leafs team running into a 18-3-4 opponent can go one of two ways - the bloody Jaws-like scene we’re picturing, or the Leafs sensing the urgency of a fin in the water, rising to the level of competition, and icing a respectable showing.
The Sharks are obviously on another level personnel wise; they tick all the boxes required in an elite team with amazing center depth in particular (Thornton, Couture, Pavelski, Marleau in a pinch). It’s a mystery as to why the Sharks organization doesn’t have at least one Cup to show for itself given its regular season...
There’s no such thing as a “must-win” in November, but boy do the Leafs need a win tonight.
Through 26 games this season, the Leafs and Habs have an identical 14-9-3 record but Montreal is 6-2-2 in their last 10 while Toronto 3-4-3. Both teams lost after regulation last night (Montreal lost to Washington 3-2 in a shootout), so there’s no “tired” excuse for either club tonight. And Montreal was in Washington, meaning they had to travel as well.
The month of November hasn’t been kind to the Leafs as they are 4-5-3, but they can at least break 500...
GO LEAFS GO.
Projected Lines vs. BUF: JVR-Bozak-Kessel. Raymond-Kadri-Clarkson. McClement-Smith-Kulemin. Ashton-Smithson-Orr.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 30, 2013
Projected defence: Gunnarsson-Phaneuf. Fraser-Franson. Gardiner-Ranger. Goaltender: Reimer.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 30, 2013
In the first two weeks of December, which is now two days away, the Leafs will face San Jose, St. Louis, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Pittsburgh. First, they will play a back to back against Buffalo and Montreal to close out November. Seems like they should probably pick up a few points starting tonight.
The Leafs are 4-5-2 in the month of November and will have to sweep this back to back to come out with a winning record in a relatively easy month, one that features three games with tonight’s last-placed opponent. Guess when the Sabres last won...
All those cliches about needing to respond to an embarrassing loss with a big character effort will apply to tonight’s meeting against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Leafs have played well against the Penguins since the start of last season, going 2-1-1 while scoring 14 goals across the four outings.
The Leafs and Penguins play a similar game, and in the past that has suited the Leaf offense just fine. The Penguins will trade chances as a skilled team with speed, and the Leafs have found it less difficult to find space and generate speed through the neutral zone against Pittsburgh than...
Tyler Bozak is expected to return to the top line between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel tonight as the Leafs close out a five-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
As much as Dave Bolland was off to a great start for the Leafs in an expanded role, he has to be an afterthought for the team given the length of his recovery time. This is as healthy as the Leafs are going to get for a long time, so let’s hope to start seeing them play some of their best hockey.
The last time out against the...
GO LEAFS GO.
Paul Ranger makes way for Mark Fraser on the back end. Carlyle with a sensible decision here to keep Rielly in the fold. Fraser moves to the right side to make it work.
The pregame hangout with Peter Hassett of Russian Machine Never Breaks:
We're just past the quarter pole of the season and the Capitals and Maple Leafs find themselves in a similar boat. Both have winning records, are routinely outshot, receive good goaltending, and shoot at a near-10%-or-above success rate. The two teams are within a couple of points of each other in the Eastern Conference standings and both likely figure into the "middle tier" of the East when all is said and done. It's worth noting that the Capitals, remarkably, only have seven wins in regulation or overtime. They've really bore down on the second point in the shootout with...
The Leafs emerged with a convincing enough 4-0 win the last time these two teams met (October 10), but the game wasn’t always without doubt.
The game featured two 8-10 minute spells without a Leaf shot, both in the first period and to start the second. It was one of the Leafs’ worst nights in the faceoff circle, going 5 for 22 in the first 30 minutes and 38% overall on the night. Ironically, the Leafs scored their first goal off a lost faceoff when JvR pounced on a puck behind the net and fed Kessel in front.
The Leafs have...
Picking up two points versus the Islanders before Kadri and Bozak return with Predators, Capitals and Blue Jackets on the docket could set the Leafs up nicely for the rest of November. The Leafs need to accumulate some points before they embark on a December from hell.
With the likes of Trevor Smith, Jay McClement and Jerred Smithson playing elevated minutes at center, the Leafs have been forced to try to grind out goals and generate more in-zone offense with less of their usual rush attack exploits. It’s been a struggle to score, but the goaltending has remained...
This will be a special night for new Leaf Peter Holland, making his Leaf debut close to home in the ACC on Hockey Night in Canada.
Finding out you’ve been traded the day of, before heading to Toronto to play your first game in the ACC on HNIC just hours later, has to be a combination of exciting and nerve wracking that’s tough to wrap the head around.
He’ll also be playing a bigger role than he’s used to.
Over his four games, Peter Holland had the lowest TOI/game of any player to play for the Anaheim Ducks this season, clocking...
Jonathan Bernier starts in net. Trevor Smith will play between Lupul and Clarkson on line two (he's never received much more than 5 minutes from Carlyle, so this will be interesting).
Carlyle: "We can't expect Trevor Smith to come up and put him on our fourth line. It's unfair to him in this situation. When we had other people ahead of him, we had Bozak, we had Bolland, it's a little bit different, but in tonight's situation he's going to play a prominent role in an offensive line."
GO LEAFS GO!
I'd say at least it can't get much worse, but I wouldn't want to tempt fate.
With Nazem Kadri sidelined by suspension, the Leafs find themselves in a position where their best active natural center is a player with one point in 17 games.
We’ll find out if the plan is to shift another winger to the middle (Raymond or Clarkson being the most likely candidates) or to simply call up Trevor Smith as the day progresses. The former scenario would involve calling up a winger, be it Josh Leivo (scored for the Marlies last night in a 3-1 loss) or...
Jonathan Bernier starts for the Leafs, Niklas Backstrom for the Wild (could be a break for the Leafs; he's 1-1-2 with 3.42 GAA & .871sv%).
GO LEAFS GO.
The following projected lines are based on this tweet:
Leafs look to be reverting to line combos from start of Saturday's game: Lupul/JVR/Kessel, Raymond/Kadri/Clarkson.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 13, 2013
These are different than the practice lines, which followed the units Carlyle blended together in the 2nd period vs. Boston (Raymond - JvR - Kessel; Lupul - Kadri - Kulemin; Ashton - McClement - Clarkson). We'll update when there's confirmation.
Tonight, the Leafs, scorers of two goals in their last three games, look to rediscover their scoring touch against a Minnesota team that's allowed only 18 goals over 10 home games (7-1-2).
Once known for a 2011-12 collapse often bragged about in the advanced stats community (started at 20-7-3, missed the playoffs), Mike Yeo's team this season has achieved a 10-4-4 record with a shooting percentage below league average and top-notch Corsi. While Josh Harding's .947 save percentage over 14 games is remarkable, he's done it while facing only 286 shots (20.4 shots a game is crazy low, especially coming...