The Leafs hit sunny Florida tonight for a match-up against the Panthers in the first of back-to-back away games. Game starts at 7:30 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in their path to victory:
1) Ben Scrivens is coming off a shutout win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Tonight’s game, however, is the first in back-to-back games. The Leafs play against the much stronger Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night so it’ll be interesting to see if both starts go to Scrivens or if one of them goes to current backup Jussi Rynnas, who hasn’t played in a NHL game since March 29th, 2012. The most likely scenario (and surest path to victory) would see Rynnas start tonight. Is this the case?
To my surprise, the start ultimately went to Scrivens and he didn’t disappoint. Scrivens earned his second consecutive shutout (and the second of his young career). Scrivens’ recent strong play will certainly raise questions when James Reimer eventually returns to the lineup.
2) Colton Orr played almost 13 minutes against the Senators. He’s excelled at the role of enforcer and has generated some decent offensive chances as part of the Leafs’ checking line as well. Do we get to see even more of Orr tonight?
At ten minutes of playing time, we actually less of Orr than before, but he continued his strong play. Orr found himself on the ice for one of the Leafs’ three goals on the night and he almost brought his own season goal count to three on a surprise wraparound attempt. Love Orr.
3) The Leafs will look to continue their strong play on the road and Florida is one of the friendlier arenas in the NHL for the team to visit. A strong cohort of Leafs Nation is always in attendance. Can the Leafs turn this “away” game into a dominant “home” victory?
From almost anyone’s perspective, turnout for this game can be considered an embarrassment. I counted more empty seats than filled ones. Having said this, the Leafs definitely enjoyed some strong crowd support given what was available.
4) When former GM Brian Burke traded for Kris Versteeg in the 2010 off-season, the young winger was supposed to form part of a strong core moving forward. Instead, he only played half a season in Toronto before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. For their part, the Flyers didn’t see much of a continuing role for Versteeg either and promptly traded him to Florida during the 2011 0ff-season. The Panthers became Versteeg’s fourth team in three seasons, but they’re also the team where he’s enjoyed his best season, recording 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 2011-2012. (In fairness, he collected 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008-2009.) Having been passed around the league so much, does Versteeg relish the opportunity to scorn one of his former teams?
Versteeg missed the game. He’s still nursing a day-to-day injury, but he’s likely to start in Florida’s next game. Would Versteeg have made much of a difference anyway? Doubtful.
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