Coming off what has to go down as some of the of the worst six consecutive periods in the Randy Carlyle era, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to rebound against a divisional rival.
Luckily for the Leafs who have seen issues both defensively and in net, they’re playing the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning… who average 3.6 goals a game, second in the NHL (which is also where they currently sit in league standings.) Not exactly the type of team to face when you’re looking to get back on track.
Projected Lineups via Daily Faceoff
Tuesday’s game against Nashville provoked a lot of feelings in Leafs Nation, especially following a 6-2 performance against Buffalo on Saturday. The good news is that will most likely be the worst blowout of the year. The bad news is, the loss helped to highlight glaring and ongoing issues within the Leafs, mostly stemming from the defensive front. Additionally, it helped to reinforce that when not one, but two goaltenders have an off night, teams can look real, real bad. There isn’t much more to say about the Leafs that you probably don’t know or haven’t heard in the past few days, except that tonight’s result will likely have a massive impact on the general morale of a large portion of the fanbase.
In my personal experience playing ball hockey against future Leaf Stamkos, he’s got an uncanny ability to control the play both with and without the puck. While he didn’t score against me, (I did win a battle for the ball) he still netted two assists in less than five minutes. In short, he’s probably very good at ice hockey too. I’d look out for him if I were the Leafs, both tonight and as a free agent. (If you’d like to read more about that, click here).
Calder Trophy candidate Jonathan Drouin has peformed solidly so far, putting up a goal along with eight assists in 14 games, averaging 13:43 in ice time. While not eye-popping, a solid season should put him in the conversation to take home rookie of the year.
And while the loss of Victor Hedman to a hand injury early in the year may have hurt the name value of the d-corps, but they’re a vastly underrated crew, led by one of the most underrated defenseman in the NHL in Anton Stralman, who suited up for 88 games in the Blue and White (the original kind). Tampa Bay concedes just 48.89 shot attempts against at 5v5 play per sixty minutes, good enough for fourth in the league. If their offence continues to produce and Ben Bishop stays healthy, Tampa’s looking like a seriously scary hockey team heading forward.
As an aside, remember when Brenden Morrow was an Olympic-caliber player?
Brenden Morrow Fun Fact #1: Along with Mike Richards and Dany Heatley, he’s one of three players from that Vancouver 2010 team who has since seen time on the fourth line.
Brenden Morrow Fun Fact #2: He was born in Carlyle, Saskatchewan.
— Lindsay Hamilton (@Linz_Hamilton) November 16, 2014
Things to look out for:
-Waffles. After jersey tossing has somehow become the norm, Waffles have taken a backseat as the preferred on-ice projeticle. It seems like waffles are patiently waiting around to make a comeback, and tonight could be the night if the Leafs perform sub-par.
-Inevitable discussion about the best course for a Leafs tank job.
-Richard Panik’s playing his former team.
-An unnamed player to score two goals or more in a Leafs loss, only to be slammed for not being quotable enough afterwards.
-Tampa Bay’s fifth-ranked powerplay has netted 16 goals this season, clicking at a 23.2 rate. Taking penalties probably isn’t the best idea against any team with Steven Stamkos on the top unit.
(stats via puckalytics.com, hockey-reference.com & nhl.com)