MAPLE LEAFS (2-3-3) at ISLANDERS (3-5-0)
As the Leafs travel from Montreal to New York, many lessons can be learned from what we see on the ice from this entire weekend of play.
Last night, the Leafs lost to the best team in the NHL and one that is currently undefeated in regulation time. The youngest team in the NHL took them on, outshot them and beat them in a lot of areas on the ice. What beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in Montreal? Carey Price, a single shot from Shea Weber, and an ability to keep the Leafs forwards to the perimeter of the ice shooting muffins on net.
Pleased with the performance of our young group, might be an understatement. What did I see that I liked? Frederik Andersen to start. The much maligned, newly acquired starting goalie had an excellent game between the pipes. Giving up only 2 goals on 31 shots, following a solid game against the Panthers, has Andersen trending in the right direction and a goalie that can bail out a young team that will make mistakes.
As an aside, the pinch and continued sub-par play of Morgan Rielly is a concern. However, I have little doubt that as Zaitsev continues to ascend into a minute munching top pairing blueliner, this will allow the still young Rielly to refind his game. This current group of blueliners is not good enough, I would make changes if possible.
Also positive, the youth. William Nylander led the charge again last evening for the Leafs. He might be the straw that stirs the drink on a line with the #1 Draft pick overall and that is saying something. Nylander’s slap pass to Kadri shows just how talented and creative the young ‘Canadian’ is. Mitch Marner had another decent game but learned just how tough the sledding can get in the NHL. Connor Brown saw his minutes reduced with Seth Griffith taking his place on the line midway thru the game. However, playing on the 4th line, Brown did manage to draw a much needed powerplay late in the game.
What will we see this evening? Leafs had to travel late from Montreal after a tough loss to a hated rival, and the game is a 6pm early start. The Toronto team will also experience how terrible the ice is at the not-so-new Barclays Center. The ice is so bad, that even the home team complains about it. Hopefully this won’t be a factor this evening, but a team that relies on skills, slick passing, and toe drags, keep an eye on this aspect of the game. This game also marks the return to see his former teammates by Matt Martin. A hero to the regular Islander fans, it will be interesting to see how effective he plays. A slow start to the season for Martin, but has ramped up his hitting and ability to get in on the forecheck. I would like to see Martin get a like minded winger to play his offside, Nikita Soshnikov would be a nice addition to his line.
Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal for the Leafs tonite in New York.
Let us see what the Leafs can bring to the table today. They are playing a rested team, but a team they should be able to beat and grab two vital points from.
Go Leafs Go.
Sidenote: Marlies lost in a shootout in Albany 4-3. Andrew Nielsen had a goal and an assist. 7pts in 8 games for the rookie D-man. Brendan Leipsic leads the AHL in scoring with 13 pts.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Komarov — Kadri — Brown
Martin — Smith — Griffith
Rielly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Marincin — Polak
New York Islanders
Beauvillier — Tavares — Bailey
Prince — Nelson — Ladd
Lee — Strome — Quine
Chimera — Cizikas — Clutterbuck
Leddy — Hamonic
Hickey — Boychuk
de Haan — Seidenberg