Game Preview: Maple Leafs v. Islanders





4-0-0, 8 points

2-1-2, 6 points

PP %

15%, 17th

24.1%, 5th

PK %

93.3%, 3rd

81.5%, 19th

Goals For



Goals Against



The undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs (on and on it goes I hope) host the New York Islanders who have made their own strong start. The Islanders entered the season with a lot of hope after breakout years from Josh Bailey and Matt Moulson as well as John Tavares’ sophomore year. A couple of major injuries struck during training camp to take off a bit of the gloss.

The Islanders’ start has been powered in large part by Dwayne Roloson’s .929 and Josh Bailey’s seven points in five games. Their last outing was a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche behind a goal and an assist for Bailey. Coach Scott Gordon had a great comment about Bailey’s development after the game:

You know what? And I said this before the game – You just can’t, unless you’re around him and saw what we had to go through (his) first year, as far as making the decision to keep him here. We knew that if he stayed here, we could get a lot of the bad things out of his game and make the process quicker for him. If we had sent him back to Junior, he would have gotten a bunch of points, probably would’ve won the Memorial Cup with the team that won it. (He) Would’ve gone to World Juniors, but at the end of the day, right now, he could be the player we saw last year instead of being the player he is now. That’s two summers of quality off-ice training, it’s the understanding of after he makes a play, he’s got somewhere to go. He’s just so much stronger on the puck now that things are happening more for him because of the fact that he’s just older. And had he played another year against kids, it’s not going to help him as far as speeding up the process of being NHL-ready.

This thought process applies to Luke Schenn. As Brett Lebda slots into the line-up tonight the focus is on the strength of Toronto’s top four. Schenn leads the Leafs in even-strength ice-time, hits, and plus/minus. He’s doing so against soft competition thus far but after a sophomore campaign that was marked by its rough start. The tendonitis in his knee and rumoured vision problems have given way to a player that is much more confident with the puck and that continues to develop his shot.

The Leafs’ hot start has already started our provincial cousin’s Napoleonic Complex. While Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun, a former die-hard Leafs fan, chided the local media for writing positive stories aobut an undefeated team on Monday, it was the Ottawa Citizen’s Mark Sutcliffe who wrote a post better suited to a blog than someone who will undoubtedly rail against bloggers’ professionalism. I would remind them that Leafs fans might be excited about this team because on this date last year the Leafs were 0-6-1 with 14 GF and 32 GA. It took them 21 games to win four last year.

So what are the chances that the Leafs can push their record to 5-0-0? Well, the Islanders have been a regular victim of the Maple Leafs at home since the lockout. During that period the Buds have racked up a 7-1-2 with 43 GF and 29 GA. If the Leafs can win tonight they’ll have as many wins as they did on November 25th and they’ll continue to bank points for the inevitable January/February dry patch. Or maybe this time they won’t hit it. Either way, it’s fun right now to be a Leafs fan again.