DETROIT (39-28-11) at MAPLE LEAFS (28-38-11)
This final week of the NHL regular season is going to be a wacky one. It is hard to remember the last time so many teams were fighting for their playoff lives this late in the season. At least that is true in the Eastern Conference with only one team punching their ticket to the post season so far.
While seven teams have clinched in the Western Conference, only Washington has done so in the east. That leaves seven spots open to determine who will be playing beyond next weekend. Of the fourteen non playoff teams, all seven Canadian teams occupy half of those spots.
It is starting to look bleak for the Detroit Red Wings to keep their own playoff iron-man streak going to twenty-five seasons. Tonight’s matchup at the Air Canada Center vs. the young upstart Leafs is crucial for Detroit to take away two points. Wins will not be enough though as Hockeytown needs either Boston or Philadelphia to falter down the final stretch.
One thing going for the Red Wings is a relatively healthy hockey team which offers roster stability along with their upcoming schedule. After tonight Detroit plays Philly and Boston. The Flyers are playing good hockey while Boston is trending downwards. Detroit’s season could very well come down to their game vs the Bruins next Thursday.
A Leaf win tonight will tie the season series at two apiece but more importantly for Leaf players it will put a major dent in the Red Wings post-season plans.
Despite a hat-trick against Florida it has been a rough week for Nazem Kadri. First he was called out by Buffalo sensation Jack Eichel for Kadri’s criticism of the rookie. Next the league found it fit to fine Kadri for embellishment and/or diving not once but twice. The next time it happens the coach will receive a fine. Taking from the coaches pocket is not recommended. Social media has been all over Kadri and are calling for Leafs management to trade the pending RFA. Kadri is defiant. Discuss amongst yourselves.
Frederick Gautier has been recalled to the big club and Leaf management announced that Milan Michalek will miss the rest of the season. Fan favourite Nikita Soshnikov did skate with the team this morning but it is unclear if he will return to the lineup tonight. Garret Sparks is expected to start the game in net.
The Leafs will play twice more at home after tonight before hitting the road for two to close out the season. Scorched earth year one is almost complete. Can’t help but think that the Leafs rebuild is in better shape than what Edmonton has done after four first round picks in six years. That is a bold statement but considering that Edmonton will likely finish last overall among other points the evidence is there.
Is Leafs Nation getting nervous about who will finish last overall? It’s not the end of the world. There is a renewed faith in the young hockey club and the direction this rebuild is moving in.
Seven days to go.
Enjoy the game tonight.