The Leafs look to move beyond a tough home loss to the Montreal Canadiens last night as the team travels to New York City for a fresh match-up today. They’ll be taking on the Islanders, who beat the Leafs 7-4 in the only other meeting between the two clubs this season. Action starts at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) James Reimer will likely get the start tonight. Reimer hasn’t played in a game since February 11th when he left near the start of the second period with an injury. In his place, Ben Scrivens has gone a spectacular job defending the Leafs’ net. Both goalies now have almost identical stats (Reimer is 6-3-0, .929 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average while Scrivens is 6-6-0, .923 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average). Reimer will want to show that there’s no rust in his game and that he’s able to resume carrying the majority of the workload for the Leafs. Is he up to the task?
He looked shaky throughout the night and would’ve lost the game if it wasn’t for the heroics of Nazem Kadri. Having said that, a win is a win. Reimer and the Leafs will gladly take the two points.
2) The Leafs’ trio of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk didn’t put forth their best effort last night. They were a combined -12 and saw less than 40 minutes of ice time between them. These are some of the biggest guns on the team so it’s important that they show up on a nightly basis. Can the three players redeem themselves tonight?
JVR put one in the net, but it wasn’t the trio’s best game. Kessel finished the night -2.
3) Captain Dion Phaneuf didn’t have his finest game either. He finished -3 on the night and played just over 17 minutes (he normally clocks in around 25 minutes of ice time). He’s the team’s go-to defender, however, and they’ll want a stronger performance from him tonight against the Islander’s dynamic duo of John Tavares (13 goals, 12 assists) and Matt Moulson (10 goals, 13 assists). It can be argued that the Islanders don’t have much offence beyond these two players. If Phaneuf and the boys can keep them at bay, then the Leafs have a good chance of winning the game. Can they do it?
Tavares and Moulson were kept off the scorecard while Phaneuf netted the winner in overtime. You cannot ask for much more from the captain and crew.
4) We’ve already seen a number of high-profile trades take place in the league. Simon Gagne, for one, was reunited with his former team while Michael Ryder made a similar return to Habs’ lineup. The number of scouts attending games has been fairly high. Two players the Leafs might be interested in trading include little used defencemen Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles. TSN Radio reported yesterday that Komisarek and his agent might be inclined to seek a fresh start away from the Leafs. Do we learn anything else about the future of these two dated players?
No news on the trade/acquisition front from the Leafs’ point of view, but the wrangling over Ryan O’Rielly between the Flames and the Avalanche ended rather quickly. O’Rielly will remain in Colorado to the surprise of few. He cannot be traded for one calendar year either, meaning he’s not coming to Toronto (anytime soon).
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