PANTHERS (8-7-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (7-6-3)
7:30 pm (TSN)
Tonight’s match up between the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs could called be a story of twin vs twin.
Both teams are striving for a return to respectability, the average age of their respective rosters is almost identical and they are tied at 17 points after 16 games. Statistically both Florida and Toronto hold their own edge defensively and offensively. So who wins tonight?
It is rumoured that James Reimer will be the starting goalie for Florida tonight’s contest. This may make one wonder if Reimer is more motivated than usual after being shipped off to San Jose last February and then signing a five year deal with the Panthers this past offseason.
Some say that the Panthers are long in the tooth. Jaromir Jagr is only one player of only 20 roster spots and is now winding down his incredible career of 1645 games and counting.
The influence and of his fitness and dedication has do doubt benefited younger Panthers like Aaron Ekblad, and Aleksander Barkov.
The future is bright in Florida but as has been the case since their NHL inclusion back in 1993, challenging for hockey’s biggest prize continues to be a challenge.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are riding a 1 game win streak and are 6-4-0 in their past ten. The season may be only one-fifth complete but the Leafs are challenging for a wild card playoff spot. Perhaps a bit early for that discussion but worth noting as it is a barometer of success as the rebuild continues.
Watch out for the Bozak line with van Reimsdyk and Marner flanking the center. That line has really gelled over the past half dozen games and are a large part of the teams success.
Speaking of success, Nazem Kadri is slowly winning the trust of fans and Leafs management. He is now solidly in a third line checking role receiving minutes against the oppositions top players. That is quite a compliment from Babcock to trust Kadri and Kadri has returned the favour and is playing the best hockey of his career.
Members of Leafs Nation and the media are living up to their respective reputations and the honeymoon for Austin Matthews appears to be over.
Having only compiled 2 assists in the past 10 games after a summer of hype and a record setting first NHL game (for goals) even Matthews is publicly admitting it is frustrating. It is sometimes easy to forget that his NHL career is only 16 games old. He needs more time to adjust and as Babcock indicated earlier this week, he should be dominant by Christmas.
That sounds like a Babcock way of giving the kid a push and subtly telling him he has until then to pull it together with and with out the puck.
Frederik Andersen is expected to get the start tonight. So who wins tonight?
When asked for a quote by Leafs Hub…..
“A lot of young talent on both teams.”
What more can be said, two young exciting skilled teams taking to the ACC ice tonight.
The team that wants the win more will prevail tonight. What do you think?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Komarov — Kadri — Brown
Martin — Smith — Soshnikov
Rielly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Polak
Marincin — Hunwick
Marchessault — Barkov — Jagr
Jokinen — Trocheck — Smith
Griffith — Malgin — Sceviour
McKegg — McCann — Rau
Yandle — Demers
Pysyk — Ekblad
Matheson — Petrovic
Mike Babcock — Morning Skate — 11/17/2016