Advertisement

On the heels of the most bizarre offseason of any team in the NHL, it’s been an interesting first 18 games to the Don Sweeney era in Beantown.

– They’re a mediocre 9-8-1, despite scoring the lights out to the tune of 3.33 goals/game after a 2014-15 season in which they were hard up for offence, mired in the bottom ten for goal production. Krejci, Bergeron, Eriksson and Marchand are all off to strong starts offensively. Bergeron, Krejci and Eriksson have been feasting on the powerplay, which is the league’s best presently with a 34.5% conversion rate. Bergeron leads the League in powerplay points (12) and Krejci is tied for fifth with nine points, while Eriksson’s five powerplay goals trail only Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn.

– Tyler Seguin returned to the town he was run out of earlier this month and scored a hat trick in a 5-3 Stars win. Thank You Kessel? Thank You Chiarelli? Not sure what’s appropriate here anymore.

– A few games later, Loui Erikssson, acquired by Jim Nill in that Seguin trade hosing, scored a hat trick of his own against the Minnesota Wild. He’s posted 17 points in 18 games this season.

– Jonas Gustavsson is sporting a .914 save percentage through five starts (4-1-0) compared to Tuukka Rask‘s .890. Rask hasn’t been good by his standards to say the least, but at the same time he obviously isn’t the problem with the team.

– That would be the defence, among the more ragtag blueline groups out there at the moment beyond their (aging) number one guy. Calls for a mobile high-end defenceman are deafening in Boston, but in Sweeney’s defence we all know how tough those are to acquire and that certainly no sensible GM ever trades one for peanuts.

The offense is firing, but the Bruins are playing a chancier game than in years past (3.11 goals against/game has them 28th in the NHL), and the results aren’t improving over last season. They’re no longer the possession giants they once were, and the clock is ticking on Claude Julien, who has a contract through 2017-18 but is undoubtedly on a short leash under the new GM.

Looking ahead to tonight’s game, the Leafs are in tough on the road against a rested Boston team that last played Thursday against Minnesota (4-2 win).

There should be a few more opportunities for offence than there were in last night’s low-event snoozer in Carolina. The Leafs are going to have to be disciplined tonight to avoid facing the lights-out Boston PP (34.5%, 1st in NHL). If they can draw more penalties than they take, the Bruins’ PK has been as bad (72%, 30th in NHL) as their powerplay’s been good.

James Reimer will get the nod for the second consecutive night in the Leaf net. He’s posted a .929 save percentage versus Boston over his career, compared to Jonathan Bernier’s .888 mark versus the Bruins.

Rask is the likely starter for Boston. He’s 11-3-1 versus Toronto all-time with a .931 save percentage.

In other lineup notes — the only change expected for the Leafs is Scott Harrington re-entering the lineup in the place of Martin Marincin. Marincin played only nine minutes last night with 100% offensive zone starts, so it’s safe to say he’s not earned the faith of Mike Babcock. It’d be beneficial if Babcock could find a reliable bottom pair that keeps Matt Hunwick from playing in excess of 26 minutes a night — Hunwick’s been solid, but it’s the recipe for overexposing a guy whose largely been a depth D in the NHL.

With a win, the Leafs could leapfrog the Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lineup

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins Lineup - November 21, 2015
Left WingCenterRight Wing
van RiemsdykKadriKomarov
MatthiasBozakParenteau
WinnikHollandLupul
GrabnerFroeseBoyes
Injured: Spaling
Left DefenceRight Defence
HunwickRielly
GardinerPhaneuf
HarringtonPolak
Scratched:
Corrado
Marincin
Goal: Reimer

MapleLeafs.com Preview

Mike Babcock Pregame