MAPLE LEAFS (17-22-9)
7:00 pm (TSN 4)
Welcome back to regular season hockey. After a brief 5 day break for the NHL All Star Game players will be returning to competition tonight. The Toronto Maple Leafs invade the TD Garden vs their division nemesis Boston Bruins looking to break a 4 game losing streak against the B’s dating back to April last year.
Boston is perilously hanging onto the second to last wildcard spot in the east. No doubt Bruin players are looking over their shoulders as both Carolina and Philadelphia are playing well and are making their case to participate in the post season tournament. Both teams are within striking distance of Boston with the Flyers having 2 games in hand and Carolina a single point out of the playoffs.
Three Boston players remain on injured reserve with McQuiad and Kelly nursing long term injuries. The Boston’s miss the services of their experienced center and defender but the loss of their backup goaltender Gustavsson is particularly concerning. “the Monster” has a well documented history of heart issues dating back to his days with the Leafs. A significant injury history along with his heart issues makes one wonder if this could be the end of his NHL career as he is an unrestricted free agent this July 01.
It is difficult to determine at this point if Boston will be buyers or sellers in 27 days time. Unlike recent history Boston is a different team this year and not dominating their opposition physically or on the scoreboard. Like him, love him or hate him the absence of Milan Lucic (L.A. Kings) this year has hurt the B’s. The edge is gone. Boston has less than $1million in cap space remaining. Not much wiggle room to bring in talent between now and February 29th. Looking longer term the Bruins will have a challenging off season with 7 UFA’s and 6 RFA’s to resign this summer. If Boston falls out of playoff contention within the next couple weeks look for a sell-off of assets and the word rebuild becoming a part of the Boston vernacular.
Toronto is on a 4 game losing streak. Leaf fans that were nervously seeing the playoffs as a possibility can rest easy now. 12 points and 6 teams stand between the Buds and a playoff spot. Now that the playoff dream can be put to bed for this season the question is can they finish in the bottom 5 for a realistic shot at consensus #1 pick Austin Matthews?
The plan a year ago was to dismantle the team on and off the ice, stock pile draft picks and develop from within. So far so good but the process will be long and painful. Even with a high draft pick this year the Leafs are a long way from playoff contention. Some are quietly cheering for a loss tonight. Some not so much. The only good reason to chase a win tonight is simply because the Bruins are the opposition. Plain and simple, Leaf fans do not like the Boston Bruins. While unrealistic, a record of 2 wins and 31 losses for the balance of the season would satisfy many a Bruin hater.
Barring a last minute change by Babcock, James Reimer will get the start tonight. This will be Reimers 200th NHL game and all have been as a Leaf. Is Reimer playing out the final string of games as a Leaf? The remake of the roster is very fluid and many believe the purging of quality players from the roster is not yet complete. Reimers value as a starter has never been higher and an exchange for quality trade picks is a very real possibility . . . perhaps even likely.
Brendan Shanahan and company are taking the remaking of the Leaf brand to all corners of the ACC. Post game tonight the Leafs will be unveiling a new logo to adorn jerseys, letterhead and memorabilia. This is the first time in 44 years any tweaks have been made to the storied hallmark. Will this upset the Leaf faithful clinging onto yesterday? Stay tuned to social media to see if any fireworks erupt.
Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Peter Holland – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Michael Grabner – Tyler Bozak – PA Parenteau
Shawn Matthias – Nick Spaling – Daniel Winnik
Joffrey Lupul – Byron Froese – Rich Clune
Matt Hunwick – Morgan Rielly
Dion Phaneuf – Frank Corrado
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly
Loui Eriksson – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo – Max Talbot – Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara – Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg – Colin Miller
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Gdiff (5v5) — -10
Gdiff (All) — -19
CF% (5v5) — 49.8
PP% — 15.5
PK% — 80.3
Gdiff (5v5) — +6
Gdiff (All) — +14
CF% (5v5) — 49.6
PP% — 25.9
PK% — 84.4