At long last, Phil Kessel will don the blue and white as he takes to the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Â He has received final clearance (after undergoing a few tests on his repaired shoulder) and will be lining up alongside Jason Blake and Matt Stajan. Â While the focus will undoubtedly be on Kessel’s performance in his first game, the Leafs as a whole must maintain their recent level of play and take a win from the visiting team tonight.
After a relatively successful road trip, Toronto returns home to the ACC on this Tuesday night matchup. Â The Leafs are the only team to not have won at home in the NHL. Â They will hope to carry over a much-improved offensive game consisting of puck control, pursuit, and savvy. Â If you go back to the best batches of play by last year’s incarnation of the Leafs, you will remember they were characterized by a dogged game that saw a high number of shots on the opposing goaltender. Â With the limited amount of high-end offensive talent on the team, they needed an offense-by-committee approach that was dependent on a massive effort each night. Â Regardless of the inclusion of Phil Kessel to this year’s squad, the approach should be much the same.
Moreover, the Leafs will look to continue utilizing their lethal powerplay to their advantage. Â However, if they hope to win consistently, they will need to improve their defensive zone coverage and more importantly, their penalty kill. Â Phil Kessel will undoubtedly augment the offensive side of their game. Â Yet he will not alleviate defensive woes that must be improved from the net on outwards.
On that note, Jonas Gustavsson will see the start tonight. Â While Vesa Toskala did not have an “awful” start against the Canadiens on Saturday night, he let in the almost-trademark backbreaking soft goal that simply cannot happen. Â Contrarily, Gustavsson has shown an increasing ability to make saves when his team needs it the most, keeping them in games and giving them a chance to win. Â The lineup will look mostly the same otherwise, minus the inclusion of Kessel and the demotion of Jiri Tlusty.
Here is tonight’s lineup:
As an aside, there was anÂ edition of HockeyCentral on the FAN590 yesterday that referencedÂ research done here on MLHS by our own Gus Katsaros. Â We wereÂ disappointed by the lack of credit given to Gus for his insightful work. Â Moreover, there was a clear lack of understanding of the research’s meaning and it was thus misrepresented. Â To make matters worse, larger media outletsÂ Â included these figures inÂ pieces of their own today.
Thankfully, we have made efforts to respectfully notify those at fault of the true source of this material. Â Corrections have already been made, with more to come. Â In a positive light, this is an indication that the mainstream media is finally realizing the level of intelligent discourse that happens on fan-driven sites like these. Â We thank you, the aforementioned fans, for your continued support and fantastic discussion.