The preseason will wrap up with this weekend’s back-to-back against old-but-new-again rival Detroit.
The new divisional match ups between the two Original Six rivals are going to be an interesting case study to follow this season, on account of the antithetical approaches as to how they play the game. While the Red Wings have recently struggled to maintain their possessional dominance with a considerably less skilled blueline than in years previous, their emphasis on puck possession, including Babcock’s aversion to dumping the puck in in favour of carrying pucks over the line, remains the core tenet of their system. In an attempt to compensate for a weaker defence core, Babcock has been tweaking and tightening his systems to better support the defence. The retirement of Rafalski and Lidstrom has hurt their puck movement off the backend.
The Leafs, on the other hand, eat a lot of shots and thrive on the counterattack with their speed in transition.
The lineups are pretty close to the real deal tonight as the two teams use this back to back to prepare for opening night. Kessel’s absence from the lineup due to suspension throws the Leaf lineup a bit out of whack. Lupul will play with Bolland and Kulemin while Clarkson and JvR flank Bozak.
It seems Randy Carlyle will be giving David Broll an audition opportunity next to Kadri tonight as well, with Mason Raymond on the other wing. Broll looks like he could skate a 4th line shift if need be, from what I’ve seen. He’s adequately safe, while bringing the size and physicality expected of a 4th liner, though he has some work to do in the fighting department. It will all depend on how he finishes preseason, the numbers game, and if Frazer McLaren is going to be ready or not (sounding like it’s a no).
The defence is just about what we can expect on October 1st, depending on how the Gardiner-Franson/Fraser-Ranger pairings fare. Carlyle has suggested that a return of the Franson/Fraser combination, which was an effective bottom pair against weak competition last season, wasn’t out of the question, either.
Jonathan Bernier will get the start in net. I imagine the Leafs will go with Reimer and then Bernier in the back to back to start the season regardless of what happens this weekend.
Maple Leafs Pre-Season LinesMaple Leafs Pre-Season Lines vs. Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings Preseason LinesRed Wings Pre-Season Lines vs. Maple Leafs