The Toronto Maple Leafs are back on the road tonight with a matchup against fellow Eastern bottomer Carolina Hurricanes. It will be a weekend of back to back games for the Leafs as they head home on Saturday to play host to the Detroit Red Wings (a game I will be liveblogging). But there is a significant question at hand for the Leafs heading into tonight’s game: Can a team aiming for the playoffs beat the worst team in the league?
While the Hurricanes do have two wins on the season, they lost their road game against Florida on Wednesday and thus put them at 14 games played with 7 points compared to the Leafs 13 games with 7 points. Leafs fans can now be pleased that Toronto, by simply doing nothing, managed to climb into 14th in the East.
What is interesting about the matchup is knowing that both teams are riding 4 game losing streaks, and that both teams are playing each other in the same position in which they have their only wins of the season: Carolina at home (2-3-1), and Toronto on the road (1-3-3).
Toronto will be shuffling Jeff Finger into the lineup for tonight’s game. After recent reports of Finger requesting to be sent to the minors if the team won’t play him, it’s nice to see the franchise doesn’t take those words lightly. Finger will be paired with Luke Schenn on the back end, so they can both look forward to 10 minutes of ice-time.
Ron Wilson says “it’s just a matter of time before everything comes together for us.” He later went on to state that “one of these times we’ll score and everyone will forget about what has happened up to this point.” That must be one helluva goal he’s talking about, because opening the season with just one win in October is a bit of a big obstacle to look past for Leafs fans.
Ron Wilson has yet to name his goaltender for Friday night’s game, but one would have to assume Vesa Toskala will get a start in one of the weekend games so Gustavsson does not have to play back to back, though I for one would like to see what the Monster can do under that pressure.
When asked about who would fit well as a perfect playmaker for Kessel, Wilson stated “I saw Adam Oates on the bench the other night. If we go back ten years, what Adam Oates could do for Phil Kessel, he’s the best passer I’ve ever seen.”
Interesting Team Comparisson Stat:
The Hurricanes have scored the fewest goals in the league (28) and the Leafs have allowed the most against (52). Carolina is second worst in the NHL with 3.64 goals allowed per game, while Toronto is among the league’s lowest-scoring teams at 2.38 goals per contest.
Powerplay: Toronto 3rd (25.9%), Carolina 26th (14.1%)
Penalty Kill: Toronto 30th (69.1%), Carolina 13th (81.1%)
5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: Toronto 30th (0.54), Carolina 28th (0.55)
Faceoff Wins % Toronto 18th (49.1%), Carolina 29th (46.3%)
Leafs Lines in Practice:
Jason Blake – John Mitchell – Phil Kessel
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Niklas Hagman – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak
Colton Orr – Wayne Primeau – Rickard Wallin
Jamal Mayers – Jay Rosehill
Tomas Kaberle – Francois Beauchemin
Mike Komisarek – Ian White
Jeff Finger – Luke Schenn
Also, check out Chris Neil’s Huge Hit on Hedman in last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Micheal A. Aldred