NHL teams are playing at least one game in every city this season, and tonight marks Toronto’s visit to Nashville. Fresh off a defeat to the Colorado Avalanche, the Maple Leafs look tonight to earn their first win against a Conference III opponent. The Leafs roster gets a little more inexperienced tonight, with David Broll suiting up for his first ever NHL game, becoming the fourth Leaf this season to do so.
It’s tough to drum up interest or storylines between non-conference opponents early on in the season. The Leafs hosted Nathan MacKinnon last time around, so I guess it’s fair to say that now they’ll be visiting the new home of the No. 1 prospect in the June draft, Seth Jones, who wound up being selected 4th overall. He’s found his way onto the first pairing with Shea Weber much faster than anybody anticipated, after Weber’s normal partner Roman Josi went down with a concussion.
That pairing has so far lasted for one game. Nashville got tremendously outplayed by the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night but skated away with a 3-2 win, their first on the season. The Perds were outshot 26-15 at even strength and gave up 57 overall shot attempts to 42, and that’s somewhat indicative of their season to date.
Just because I found this interesting, breaking down the Corsi Close team percentages by Division:
The Western Conference (Pacific [Smythe], Central [Conference III] Division) so far boast the strongest overall teams. There’s a sizeable gap in shots for and against when Western and Eastern teams play against one another Add that to Columbus with a 51.4% Corsi Close and Detroit with a 53.5% and it’s easy to see why people think the West is simply better than the East.
Nashville is so far 28th in the NHL in Corsi Close at 41.1%, ahead of just the Sabres and Rangers, but they’ve played games against excellent shot-generating opponents St. Louis, Minnesota, and Colorado. This will be their first game outside of the division.
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
As noted above, David Broll is in, and maybe Joffrey Lupul, despite him missing from practice yesterday. The Leafs lineup looks to be a bit of a mess right now, with David Broll slotting in for Trevor Smith, who has been sent back down. Interestingly, T.J. Brennan made the trip to Nashville, though I don’t see where he fits on the roster. Paul Hendrick suggested he won’t play, however, and is likely insurance should a defenceman get hurt during warmups:
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Lupul – Bolland – Raymond
Ashton – Kadri – Bodie
Broll – McClement – Orr
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Rielly – Franson
Ranger – Gardiner
So, it’s the first NHL game for David Broll, as Josh Leivo sits out. The Leafs are making excellent use of bonus cushions and the long-term injured reserve to fit players under the salary cap. Ironically, if Mark Fraser were healthy, the Leafs wouldn’t be able to carry around Leivo as forward insurance. Only five games left in this mini cap crunch (after tonight) before David Clarkson can rejoin the roster from his suspension.
How bad are things in Nashville. Nick Spaling’s return from an upper-body injury and insertion into the lineup is “seeing Nashville’s forward depth play a role”.
Spaling, 25, has 27 NHL goals to his name in 228 games, and will be filling in for Gabriel Bourque, who had been on the second line:
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Patric Hornqvist
Nick Spaling – Matt Cullen – Craig Smith
Eric Nystrom – David Legwand – Filip Forsberg
Richard Clune – Paul Gaustad – Matt Hendricks
Seth Jones – Shea Weber
Victor Barley – Kevin Klein
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
That’s via DailyFaceoff. Its last update was today (although doesn’t reflect the Spaling-for-Bourque change just yet). Coach Barry Trotz appears to have flipped partners on the bottom two units: last game, Bartley played with Ellis and Ekholm with Klein.
Since it isn’t a back-to-back for Nashville, you can pencil in Rinne anytime. For Toronto, it looks like Jonathan Bernier will be the guy tonight. “After playing just 153 minutes with Toronto,” Glenn Healy writes, “he’s already the king of the Leafs’ net.”
Bernier is playing excellent this season, with a .968 save percentage at even strength and .941 save rate on the penalty kill. His overall save percentage is .963. Look, he’s been fantastic and given the Leafs a more than great chance of winning in all of his appearances, but let’s not act that this is the first time a Toronto goaltender has gone on a two-and-a-half game hot streak since the days of Ed Belfour.
Apparently it’s been mandated that every hockey post today have a section dedicated to Tomas Hertl. Here is Jonathan Willis’ take on showboating over at Oilers Nation.
The Maple Leafs and Predators drop the puck at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Click here to sign up for Streakcred.