LGD: State of Bad Hockey

After just a few hours of rest, the Toronto Maple Leafs are back at it, taking on the Minnesota Wild at the Air Canada Centre this evening. Here’s what you need to know:

The Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

Please note that Daily Faceoff has not yet updated for Brad Boyes and Brendan Leipsic trading places. That should add an interesting dynamic to the team, especially if Leipsic drops straight into Boyes’ spot and acts as the forechecker and net presence on the third line. Beyond that, I’ve been impressed by how well this rendition of the lineup has played over the past few games; they’re competing hard and showing pockets of skill. It almost gives you reason to be optimistic for what’s ahead for the organization.

The Wild

Minnesota Wild Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

The Wild are such a weird combination of players. They’ve got two Finns who are most famous for being better than their brothers (Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund), a bunch of players who are good but not quite what they were on their original teams (Parise, Vanek, Pominville, and Suter), a few reclamation projects (Niederreiter, Stoll), a Reilly who spells his name in a non-weird name, and a bunch of under the radar but solid depth guys.

Starting Goaltenders

Starting in goal for the Leafs tonight is Garret “OneT” Sparks. This will be Sparks’ second start since being called back up; Sparks previously stopped 26 of 28 against the Lightning on February 29th. The 22 year old has taken his time getting back to speed since his groin injury that he suffered in December, and had a couple of shaky games with the Marlies upon returning to the ice, but appears to be, for the most part, back in form.

The Wild haven’t confirmed their starter just yet, but it’s expected to be Devan Dubnyk between the pipes. Minnesota isn’t exactly in a position to risk losing games, especially against a team that was on the cusp of beating two legitimately great franchises in their previous matchups. Dubnyk hasn’t quite repeated his fairy tale Vezina calibre season from last year, but has still been very steady, posting a 0.917 over 50 games played. He’s 3-2 in his last five, and in none of those games did he dip below a 0.900 SV%.

What To Watch Out For

  • Minnesota attempts to sign Jake Gardiner to an eleven-year contract
  • William Nylander decides to go one-on-five and score his first career NHL goal
  • Michael Grabner has a season-ending injury, forcing an emergency call up
  • Leafs control the possession side of the game but lose by one, despite heavy pressure in the final minute
  • Mike Babcock makes a coaches challenge, initiated with a “well, yeah” face to the referee

Puck drop is at 7:30 PM.