Peter Horachek’s Toronto Maple Leafs have Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues preparing for Barry Trotz’s Nashville Predators.

That’s the way he described it in a great interview today with the Toronto media, where he spoke in complimentary terms about the systems Horachek is implementing and the similarities to what he’s gameplanned against in the past when preparing for the Predators over the years.

[quote_box_center]That’s the way Nashville played for years. You can see the implementation of it. I told our coaches you could show Nashville clips from last year, the year before, five years ago, that is the way they are going to play.[/quote_box_center]

On the breakout:

[quote_box_center]They got way more options. They don’t bang it into areas that don’t have numbers. The way they played in Nashville with Trotz is exactly what you can see here. You see low and slow in the middle every time, there’s options every time, it’s just a matter of getting everybody comfortable feeling that’s the play, because the first couple of times you turn it over it’s unnerving. But after a while, you find a way to exit a lot quicker. Find a way to enter a lot quicker. He knows what he’s doing.[/quote_box_center]

On preventing entries:

[quote_box_center]There is going to be a tight gap. You’re going to have to get the puck behind them because there is not going to be any room in front of them. You can see that.[/quote_box_center]

On the Leafs‘ struggles for offence:

[quote_box_center]It’s play the right way, check the right way, act the right way, then you get to score goals. We have gone through it. We went through a really tough stretch where we thought we were playing okay, we were getting shut out, but we weren’t really pouring everything into it. When you looked at the game in detail, you thought, we were a little loose in areas and this is just the payback for it. Once we got the players to dig in even deeper, then we not only stayed the same defensively, but we got better offensively because of it. In the game that the NHL is right now, the more you check, the harder you check, the more you score. That is the bottom line.[/quote_box_center]

[quote_box_center]The concern for me playing Toronto is … they’re one of maybe five teams in the league that make you pay off the rush.[/quote_box_center]

The Maple Leafs were soundly embarrassed in both meetings with the Blues last season, as their inability to break the heavy cycle of the Blues saw their collapsing defense exposed as the Blues worked the puck low to high and systematically dismantled the Leafs. Toronto was outshot 40-13 and outscored 5-1 in the combined first periods of those two meetings. Just the first periods.

In that respect, Horachek’s Leafs have a very low bar to exceed in tonight’s game. The Blues boast elite depth and remain one of the League’s better possession teams, except they’re more deadly offensively this season. With just one goal in three consecutive losses, the Leafs are in tough looking to make anything out of this road trip.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. St. Louis Blues - Head to Head

Head to Head:Maple LeafsBlues
Record (Points%)22-20-3 (.522% - 20th)27-13-4 (.659% - 7th)
Goal Differential-1 (18th)+32 (3rd)
GF/G3.00 (7th)3.14 (2nd)
GA/G3.07 (25th)2.46 (10th)
PP19.5% (12th)25.7% (1st)
PK82.2% (13th)80.5% (18th)
SF/G29.0 (21st)31.9 (4th)
SA/G33.5 (28th)27.3 (5h)
5v5 SF/G27.6 (23rd)30.2 (9th)
5v5 SA/G32.9 (28th)27.2 (8th)
5v5 FF%45.2% (28th)52.6% (7th)
5v5 CF%45.0% (27th) 51.0% (17th)
5v5 Sh%8.90% (4th)8.58% (8th)
5v5 Sv%92.04% (19th)92.59% (11th)
FO%48.9% (19th)54.2% (2nd)

PP=Power Play %; PK=Penalty Kill %; GF/G=Goals for per game; GA/G=Goals against per game; SF/G=Shots for per game; SA/G=Shots against per game; Sh%=Shooting %; Sv%=Save percentage; F0%=Faceoff percentage; CF%=Corsi for % (shot attempts: shots, blocked shots, missed shots); FF%=Fenwick for% (shots+missed shots)

Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Daniel Winnik – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
(3-15-18) – (14-18-32) – (19-24-43) (37g, 93pts TOT)
James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Richard Panik
(19-21-40) – (11-14-25) – (7-1-8) (37g, 73pts TOT)
Mike Santorelli – Trevor Smith – David Clarkson
(9-17-26) – (1-2-3) – (9-4-13) (19g, 42pts TOT)
Matt Frattin – Sam Carrick – David Booth
(0-0-0) – (0-0-0) – (1-1-0) (0g, 0pts TOT)

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
(2-20-22) – (6-21-27) (8G, 49PTS TOT)
Jake Gardiner – Stephane Robidas
(2-7-9) – (0-4-4) (2G, 13PTS TOT)
Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
(4-8-12) – (5-3-8) (9G, 19PTS TOT)

Jonathan Bernier
(16-12-3, 2.69 GAA, .916SV%)
James Reimer

Scratched: Troy Bodie (0-0-0), Korbinian Holzer (0-4-4)
Injured: Joffrey Lupul (lower body) (9-8-17), Peter Holland (upper body), Leo Komarov (upper body) (5-13-18)

St. Louis Blues Projected Lines

Alexander Steen – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
(14-22-36) – (16-14-30) – (11-15-26) (41g, 92pts TOT)
Jaden Schwartz – Jori Lehtera – Vladimir Tarasenko
(15-20-35) – (9-21-30) – (24-23-47) (48g, 112pts TOT)
Joakim Lindstrom – Paul Stastny – Patrik Berglund
(3-3-6) – (9-15-24) – (6-9-15) (18g, 45pts TOT)
Steve Ott – Maxim Lapierre – Ryan Reaves
(1-6-7) – (2-6-8) – (3-2-5) (6g, 20pts TOT)

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
(2-5-7) – (4-22-26) (6g, 33pts TOT)
Carl Gunnarsson – Kevin Shattenkirk
(1-5-6) – (7-31-38) (8g, 44pts TOT)
Barret Jackman – Ian Cole
(1-11-12) – (3-2-5) (4g, 17pts TOT)

Brian Elliott
(11-5-2, 2.00GAA, .925SV%)
Jake Allen

Scratched: Dmitrij Jaskin (4-3-7), Chris Butler (2-2-4), Martin Brodeur
Injured: Chris Porter (ankle) (1-1-2)

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