With the World Junior Championship gold medal game taking centre stage tonight (7:30pm, TSN), Leafs’ fans can be forgiven for overlooking tonight’s matchup against an inconsistent Florida Panthers squad (7:00pm, Sportsnet).
Coming off a disastrous mini-road trip out West, featuring losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Maple Leafs will look to inject some confidence into their lineup with a victory against the visiting Panthers, who sit only 4 points ahead of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
Speculation on whoÂ is likely to be scratched for Saturday’sÂ rematchÂ against the New York Rangers, an update on Phil Kessel, and (surprise, surprise) some early-season trade chatter.
A combination of terrible goaltending and suspect defensive coverage undid the Maple Leafs tonight as they sat on an early 3-0 lead thinking they would ride it to the finish line, failing to take into the account the fact that, with a goaltender that’s seriously struggling between the pipes, leads can disappear on the turn of a dime, let alone over the course of 40 minutes. The end result is one which will please neither side of tanking/playoff spectrum.
A few quick thoughts from tonight’s game via the blackberry…
-Firstly, a soporific affair inside the ACC tonight.
-Jiri Tlusty had troubles settling into the game and looked edgy. He handled the puck like a hand grenade, likely due to nerves. It looked to be a result of his trying too hard to impress.
Just received an update from a source. Nothing concrete, as pretty much all rumours concerning Brian Burke’s potential moves are speculative at this point. However, a few interesting tidbits were mentioned.
Almost as impressive as the third period display by the Maple Leafs last night was their ability to storm out of the gate again this afternoon in their second game in less than 24 hours. After a vibrant first frame in which the Leafs should have scored more, the Leafs sat 1-0 up entering the second period of play.
In the ultimate act of callousness by league schedulers, the Maple Leafs will open their regular season account inside the Joe Louis Arena, where they will endure the pre-game banner raising ceremony for the Stanley Cup winning Detroit Red Wings.
A momentum swing in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins can be largely attributed to a couple of in-game changes orchestrated by bench-boss Ron Wilson.
The starting first line of Mikhail Grabovski, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky proved ineffectual in the first frame and rookie Nik Kulemin wasn’t clicking with line-mates Nik Hagman and Alex Steen. The team failed to generate anything in the way of offense until late in the third, when Wilson’s ad hoc lines began to fire, mounting a near come-back with two goals in quick succession.