The mighty Boston Bruins come to town tonight for a classic Northeast Division showdown. Three points separate the two teams in the standings, but they’re four spots apart in the standings. Expect an intense battle when the puck drops at 7 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs path to victory:
1) Phil Kessel’s goal scoring struggles continue. He came close to potting several goals when the Leafs battled the Washington Capitals on Thursday, but Lady Luck wasn’t in his corner. It would certainly be nice for Kessel to break the drought against his former team. Can he come through?
Another hit post for Kessel. He looks good out there, driving hard towards the net and sending off some lasers. Unfortunately, he cannot seem to get one into the net right now. The goals will come in time.
2) Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, in turn, has an opportunity to burn his former team. He also probably wants to make up for a brutal 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Rask is one of the league’s best goalies so he can certainly shut the barn doors if he chooses. Does he keep the Leafs at bay?
Rask looked good, but it was arguably the guy at the other end of the rink – Reimer – who made this a close game.
3) The Leafs have an opportunity to bring the physical game to Boston seeing that Shawn Thornton is currently out of the lineup. Of course, they’ll still have to deal with Milan Lucic, but he can only play on one line. Do the Leafs utilize the services of Colton Orr, Mike Komisarek and captain Dion Phaneuf in one of the rare instances where Boston appears the weaker team?
Both teams played a fairly physical game. Boston came out especially hard in the first, but the Leafs played much stronger during the second and third periods. Komisarek took out that weasel Brad Marchand, which is enough for me.
4) Let’s talk about the power play. The Leafs were only able to connect on one of their 10 power play opportunities against the Capitals on Thursday in a game that should have been over after the first period. Head coach Randy Carlyle keeps talking about improving the power play and the team definitely works on it during practice. Do we see some of this hard work pay off tonight?
The Leafs didn’t generate any offence on the night. They were stopped on both of their power play opportunities, but they also managed to keep Boston off the board during its two power play opportunities. I’ll take that trade-off.
Bonus Question: James Reimer will likely make his fourth consecutive start tonight. He’s looked good in two of previous starts against top teams in the Eastern Conference, namely the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Can he continue to play the role of giant killer?
It’s official. Reimer is back on my hockey pool team.
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