MAPLE LEAFS (24-17-9) at ISLANDERS (22-18-10)
7:00 pm (SN)
How the hockey landscape has changed in four short months. In their only other meeting this season, the Islanders laid a 5-1 beating on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fast forward to today and the Leafs are winning more than they are losing and the NY franchise is having a challenging season on and off the ice.
After posting 101 and 100 point campaigns respectively over the past two seasons the Islanders have faltered and are now on pace to finish with 88 points come April. In the always tight Eastern Conference it appears that 92 to 95 points will be needed to make the post season. Certainly not what Garth Snow envisioned back at the beginning of October.
Former coach Jack Capuano was fired mid-season after guiding the Islanders to a 17-17-8 record. Well respected assistant Doug Weight took over the bench and NYI are now 5-1-2 since the replacement. The Islanders best bet for a playoff appearance will be a wild card spot. Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh firmly hold down the 1,2,3 spots in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders could put themselves into a position to challenge the Leafs for one of the two coveted wild card spots in the playoffs. The Leafs hold more playoff options though as they sit one point back of Boston with five games in hand.
Reports out of New York City are that Barclay’s Center management will terminate the Islanders lease agreement after the 2017/2018 season. The poorly crafted rental contract has the Barclays Center bleeding money for Islander events and thus the potential eviction. This prompted Connecticut’s governor to write Islanders ownership to consider a move to Hartford.
There has been a mish-mash of other issues leaking to the public creating uncertainty on the future of the New York club.
There is still the belief that the Toronto Maple Leafs will target Isles captain John Tavares once he hits free agency after next season. One has to wonder if today this ‘rumour’ has more merit than say 12 months ago. The angles to this story are many. The implications are complex but this is not as far fetched as it was a year ago when LeafsHub first brought up this issue. As stand up as John Tavares is on and off the ice, it’s perhaps possible that team issues may have him thinking about a new destination.
The Islanders might be best served by quietly poking around the league to see what kind of return could be had for their leading scorer. That is how tenuous this franchise is right now.
Tonight marks the last of six consecutive road games for the Leafs and the results are mixed. Just two wins and three losses, the Leafs hope to build on a wild 6-5 triumph against the much vaunted Boston Bruins.
Saturday night was an emotionally charged game with playoff implications against a divisional opponent. However, tonight’s game is perhaps bigger than the Bruins tilt.
“In a lot of ways, Saturday’s dramatic win really makes Boston feel kind of vanquished. Strange to say…. but a Monday evening game in sleepy Brooklyn is probably bigger than a Saturday night in Boston.”
This will certainly catch the attention of Leaf fans but Walker continued by explaining . . . .
“Teams that holds most potential to ruin Toronto’s playoff chances aren’t The Bruins- instead the resurgent Isles and the suddenly healthy Panthers.”
“Easy to get up for Saturday – curious to see the response in a game without the emotion and fare, but arguably greater importance”
Walker makes a good point. This young Leafs team is learning how to succeed in the NHL. Pulling two points from a quiet Monday night game may do more, as part of the development of the rookies, on the march to the playoffs.
Speaking of rookies, the Leafs freshmen continue to impress. Matthews, Marner and Nylander (3 goals Saturday) sit among the offensive leaders in the NHL.
Hockey Central’s Nick Kypreos on The Andrew Walker Show covering Super Bowl 51, Maple Leafs win over Bruins, importance of William Nylander for Leafs’ future(32:00 min mark).
Look for Matthews to break a three game scoring slump. The assists are there, the chances on goal are there, more consistency putting the puck in the net is not.
Tonight should be a good matchup but without all the drama and outward emotion from Saturday night.
What do you think Leaf fans?
Discuss among yourselves.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Komarov — Kadri — Nylander
Martin — Smith — Soshnikov
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
New York Islanders
Lee — Tavares — Bailey
Beauvillier — Nelson — Strome
Ladd — Quine — Chimera
Prince — Cizikas — Kulemin
Leddy — Boychuck
Hickey — Pelech
de Hann — Seidenburg
Mike Babcock — Morning Skate — 02/06/2017