MAPLE LEAFS (20-26-9)
7:30 pm (TSN4)
Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs play host to the New York Rangers hoping to avoid a season sweep by the visiting team.
Ranger players surely are quietly thinking this will be an easy two points after the Leafs 7-2 pummeling against the Chicago Blackhawks along with the continued tear down of the roster after former captain Dion Phaneuf’s trade to provincial rival the Ottawa Senators.
1st year Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has yet to make a big splash with a free agent signing or a trade to upgrade the playoff bound team. He has though made a number of signings since last July 1st that has the Rangers playing cohesively and well. Of note, this is the same GM (interim at the time) that fleeced the Leafs at the 2006 Entry Draft in trading Andrew Raycroft for prospect puck stopper Tuukka Rask. It is not often that an interim GM can pull a trade like that off. No wonder he is now under contract with NYR.
New York is 6-3-1 in their past 10 games and are hoping to rebound from their last nights 5-3 loss to the . . . wait for it . . . the Chicago Blackhawks. Rick Nash (knee) and Marc Staal (personal) are not expected to dress tonight while Dan Boyle should return from a bout with the flu. Normally Boyle is rested on the back end of back to back games so being a healthy scratch should not be a surprise.
Rumour has it the Toronto Maple Leafs have donated millions to the Toronto General Hospital to construct an entire wing dedicated to injured Leaf players. No less than 8 players are on the injured reserve or day-to-day. This includes impact players van Reimsdyk, Bozak and recently acquired (Phaneuf trade) Michalek and Cowen. Even with a full lineup the Leafs would still be challenged to topple any of the NHL’s leading teams.
This marks a return home for the Maple Leafs after a 5 game road trip where the team won only 1 game out of 5. Judging from social media it seems that Leaf fans are more interested in losses and talking about Austin Matthews joining the TML roster next season. Draft simulators are working overtime as various draft results are being published with the Leafs landing the top pick about 25% of the time. Of course alot has to happen between now and the June entry draft. Finishing last overall would help but makes no guarantee of landing the #1 pick.
Digression aside if the Leafs hope to win tonight it will have to be with special teams. The Rangers rank 23rd and 28th in league stats for the PP and PK respectively. 5 on 5 the Rangers are near the top of the league in offense. If the Leafs can get their special teams going perhaps a win is on the horizon but a 30th PP and 20th PK negates being able to realistically take advantage of special teams.
Keep an eye on who hits the ice (or doesn’t) over the next 11 days as the trade deadline approaches. Speculation is rampant that Reimer, Polak, Komarov, Boyes, Parenteau and Kadri will be on the move before February 29th. That’s alot of draft picks in return.
It is also milestone night as Bernier will be playing his 200th NHL game. A minor bright spot in what has been an unforgettable season for him personally.
Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Michael Grabner – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Peter Holland – Mark Arcobello – PA Parenteau
Daniel Winnik – Nick Spaling – Brad Boyes
Colin Greening – Byron Froese – Rich Clune
Matt Hunwick – Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Martin Marincin – Frank Corrado
NEW YORK RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller – Derick Brassard – Jesper Fast
Oscar Lindberg – Kevin Hayes – Viktor Stalberg
Tanner Glass – Dominic Moore – Daniel Paille
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Kevin Klein
Keith Yandle – Dan Boyle
Gdiff (5v5) — -16
Gdiff (All) — -29
CF% (5v5) — 51.0
PP% — 14.8
PK% — 79.8
NEW YORK RANGERS
Gdiff (5v5) — 34
Gdiff (All) — 18
CF% (5v5) — 48.3
PP% — 17.6
PK% — 76.9