Every time the Bruins and Leafs play each other, the Kessel comparisons come out. It doesn’t matter if Kessel is playing at an MVP level or not, or even that Tyler Seguin is no longer part of the Bruins organization. Those comparisons aren’t fair, but the Leafs need to compete with the Bruins if they ever plan on being successful. And that’s something Toronto hasn’t done in a long time, and probably won’t do for a little while longer.
Things seemed like they were about to change last year until the incident we will never speak of happened. And now, the Bruins have won 15 of their last 17 games while the Leafs are collapsing in epic Leaf fashion.
The season may essentially be in the toilet, but if Toronto can pull out a victory against Boston, maybe they can climb themselves out of the gutter. Depending on the outcomes of tonight’s games, Toronto’s playoff chances can range from anywhere between 0.4 per cent and 17 per cent. Obviously, that 17 per cent is contingent on them winning tonight, along with help from across the league. And even then, it doesn’t inspire much hope.
The silver lining here is Boston played last night in Detroit, so a tired lineup without Tuukka Rask in net might be exactly what the Leafs need. The Leafiest thing to do would probably be to win 4-0 tonight with Bernier getting a 48-save shutout, and saving Carlyle’s job. Because that’s classic Leafs. When you suck, actually win when the season is almost over. So who knows.
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – Nazem Kadri – Joffrey Lupul
Nikolai Kulemin – Dave Bolland – David Clarkson
Troy Bodie – Jay McClement – Paul Ranger
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Cody Franson – Jake Gardiner
Morgan Rielly – Tim Gleason
Carter Ashton was called up from the Marlies today, but indications are that Toronto will still go with seven defenseman tonight. If they decide to insert Ashton into the lineup look for Ranger to watch from the pressbox, and Ashton to get three minutes of ice time and probably be forced to fight.
Carlyle has been relying heavily on his bottom-six for ice time lately, which has coincided with the return of Dave Bolland. Considering the way they played the Blues last week, don’t be surprised if McClement and Bolland log over 15 minutes each, with Kadri riding the pine for his supposedly terrible defensive play.
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug – Johnny Boychuk
Kevan Miller – Andrej Meszaros
Jarome Iginla was a late scratch in yesterday’s game against the Red Wings due to the incredibly descriptive lower-body injury, so his status for tonight’s game is in doubt. If he plays, expect all the right-wingers to be bumped down a line so Iginla can take his rightful spot next to Krejci and Lucic.
Jonathan Bernier is in net for the Leafs, which is no surprise at all. He’s 1-1 against the Bruins this year with a .911 save percentage despite a 3.58 GAA.
It’s uncomfirmed who will start for the Bruins tonight but after Rask played last night and backup Chad Johnson has been sensational, we’d put our money on Johnson and his 17-3-1 record.
The puck drops at 7:30pm est, and will be broadcasted on TSN.