MAPLE LEAFS (16-18-7)
Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the TD Garden and their Atlantic Division foes the Boston Bruins. Head to head play this season has Boston winning both meetings against the rebuilding Leafs.
It appears that Leafs Nation can start breathing a sigh of relief. Strong play in November and December had players, fans and even some experts believing the Leafs could challenge for a wildcard playoff spot. Alas, a fruitless January has assured the Leafs are much closer to 30th overall than the playoffs.
Neither team has fared well over the past 10 games with Boston holding a 3-6-1 record while the Leafs are 4-6-0. Boston only last night snapped a 3 game winless streak while Toronto are losers of 4 straight. One interesting stat is Boston’s home record is 9-11-2 so far this season matching Toronto’s road record of . . . you guessed it . . . 9-11-2.
Boston has been hampered by injuries with 3 players on injured reserve including point producing David Krejci (upper body), Chris Kelly (fractured femur), Adam McQuaid (upper body) and also day-to-day is 19 year old sophomore David Pasternak. Not many Leaf fans would like to acknowledge this but Zdeno Chara is having a solid year despite predictions from pre-season prognosticators. At 38 years Chara is playing his best hockey since the 2011-2012 season sitting 6th in team scoring with 23 points and leading all Boston defencemen in most statistical categories. Boston has 4 players with 30 or more points (including Krejci) while Toronto has exactly none. Scoring does not seem to be a weakness this year for Boston as they sit 4th overall in league wide goals. Despite securing 4 shutouts Tukka Rask’s GAA and SV% are their highest since the 2010-2011. At 28 years old Rask should be in his prime putting up league leading numbers. Curiously backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has better numbers than Rask albeit he has played 18 fewer games.
The scare is over for Toronto. They are heading in the direction they need to be and that is down the standings. There will be no playoffs for the Buds this year despite a winning record in November and December. So far Toronto is 2-4 in 2016. Even the Columbus Blue jackets were able to come away with 2 points in their 3-1 win a few nights back. Every area that the Leafs were seeing success in is now trending down. Neither Reimer nor Bernier are playing well compared to both their recent successes. Perhaps Reimer is still recovering from his lower body injury and not letting on. Bernier seems to have lost his confidence again and is returning to early season form. Scoring has also become an issue. 3 goals in last 4 games. Team leader and All Star Game bound Leo Komarov has not scored in 10 games. Unexpectedly this season the Leafs came to count on his new found ability to bury the puck. It is not surprising the well has dried up there. Kadri has received lots of praise this season from both Babcock and Lamoriello but he is not scoring. In the absence of van Reimsdyk it is now time for Kadri to step up. Speaking of stepping up, Jeoffrey Lupul where are you? 1 goal/1point in the past 14 games? Enough said there. As mentioned James van Reimsdyk is MIA with a broken foot and is out indefinitely.
The Leafs are now playing out the back half of the season and firmly entrenched at 27th overall. Fans have been chasing the carrot at the end of the stick all season as the Buds have enticed with inspiring play. For the remaining 39 games of 2016 there won’t be the embarrassment fans suffered last year. The poison in the dressing room has been replaced with hard work and pride. This has rubbed off on the Leafs faithful knowing that someday the carrot could very well be replaced with silver.
Enjoy the game tonight.
Shawn Matthias – Tyler Bozak – PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – Joffrey Lupul
Josh Leivo – Byron Froese – Brad Boyes
Jake Gardiner – Dion Phaneuf
Martin Marincin – Morgan Rielly
Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Loui Eriksson
Frank Vatrano – Joonas Kemppainen – Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo – Max Talbot – Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara – Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg – Colin Miller
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller