MAPLE LEAFS (10-10-5) at BRUINS (15-11-2)
7:00 pm (HNIC)
For many in Leafs Nation the thought of Toronto playing Boston brings on a burning, empty feeling that started with an infamous game seven collapse back on May 13, 2013.
Most of the Leaf characters from that night have moved on, leaving Toronto’s legacy in the hands of a team that has taken every step it can to erase recent history.
Perhaps Matt Larkin of The Hockey News summed it up best for LeafsHub . . .
“There’s a temptation to attach a Bruins/Leafs tilt in 2016 to a memorable series that happened almost four years ago. The reality, though, is that’s the last thing this incarnation of the Leafs will do.”
Larkin also explained how Brendan Shanahan has taken many steps to right the wrongs of the past.
“He’s retired legendary players’ numbers, introduced new jerseys, brought in a new coach and new management. His management team has shipped out almost every “old guard” Leaf from a few years ago. The idea was to eliminate a culture of entitlement and losing.”
That’s not say that the rivalry is dead though. Far from it. In their only meeting this season, Backes, Chara, Kadri and Martin all received fighting majors, there were several penalties for roughing. Sprinkle in a 4-1 Leafs win and there is plenty of motivation for both teams.
Boston currently sits third in the Atlantic division and holds a playoff spot. This is by virtue that Tampa Bay has taken a tumble since Steven Stamkos went down to injury.
Another factor is the play of Tuukka Rask this season. His numbers are outstanding and rank among league leaders. Defensively this team seems to be solid. Scoring goals is an issue as the team ranks 24th in goals for despite having the second highest shots league wide.
This Boston team appears to be in a very tenuous position. Like Montreal last season, if the Bruins number one netminder goes down with injury so goes the team. Their hold onto a playoff spot is shaky.
The Leafs have lost three straight and are also 4-4-2 over their past ten games. November started out strong but fizzled towards the end. Goal scoring is down after having the second most potent offence just a couple weeks ago.
While Matthews has found his NHL scoring touch and Marner continues to amaze, William Nylander seems to be coach Babcock’s new Nazem Kadri doll.
The fourth line center experiment appears to be over and Nylander is projected to play the wing with Kadri and Komarov tonight.
After a solid start to the season, questions of dedication and work ethic are starting to creep into the vernacular when describing the talented 20 year old. He is being heavily criticized for his two way game which likely adds fuel to the fire.
The team as a whole needs to play better hockey at both ends of the rink to have a chance at a win tonight.
Up to a week ago there was talk of the Leafs challenging for one of two wildcard playoff spots. Now they sit last in the Eastern Conference and 28th overall. The debate has been which would be better this season. Another low showing to draft high or go for the playoffs now by trading for defensive help.
Currently 10 points out of contention but also having played fewer games than the wildcard holders, to say tonight’s game is a must win is an understatement.
What do you think Leafs Nation?
Discuss among yourselves.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov– Kadri — Nylander
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
Martin — Smith — Shoshnikov
Reilly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Marchand — Bergeron — Pastrnak
Heinen — Krejci — Backes
Spooner — Nash — Czarnik
Schaller — Moore — Acciari
Chara — Carlo
Krug — McQuaid
K. Miller — C. Miller
Mike Babcock — Morning Skate — 12/10/2016