The Leafs begin a stretch of four games in six days - including back-to-back games to start everything off – at home tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. Game action commences at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the their path to victory:
1) The Leafs are coming off a tough one-goal shutout loss to the Boston Bruins, but tonight they’ll have an excellent opportunity to exorcise the demons and rediscover their scoring touch. Carolina has struggled so far this season and they’re one of the Eastern Conference teams that the Leafs must beat in order to increase their own position on the conference’s pecking order. Toronto is currently tied for eighth place with the New York Rangers. However, two additional points could contribute towards securing sole ownership of eighth place for the Leafs. Can they take advantage of a weak Carolina team?
In the end, it was Carolina that took advantage of a weak Toronto team. No power play and no penalty kill are guaranteed to cost you the “easy” ones.
2) James Reimer will likely get the start tonight while Ben Scrivens will likely get the start tomorrow night in Washington. Another strong performance from Reimer, however, could make it difficult for head coach Randy Carlyle to move way from a winning formula in net. Does Reimer continue to turn heads and “steal” the start tomorrow?
Reimer did his part, but the team left him high and dry. This loss was reminiscent of the Leafs 5-2 beatdown at the hands of the Rangers late last month. Expect Scrivens to start tonight.
3) Let’s forget about Phil Kessel’s absence on the score sheet for today. Another key part of the Leafs’ offence hasn’t yet found the back of the net either: Dion Phaneuf. This might help to explain why the team’s power play has been so awful when read alongside the troubles of Kessel. Is the captain due for a goal tonight? (For the record, Phaneuf has only one assist in eight games to start the season.)
Phaneuf’s offensive drought continues, but I must admit that his defensive play has been above expectations so far this season. Lets hope he turns up the heat soon.
4) Carl Gunnarsson is arguably the Leafs’ best defenceman and he’ll miss a second consecutive game due to an apparent hip injury. Clarke MacArthur, on the other hand, could be ready to rejoin the lineup tonight while Mike Brown remains out. How does the uneven health of the team factor into tonight’s game?
I think it’s safe to say the Leafs’ power play sorely misses Jake Gardiner. I don’t see a turnaround happening in this area until his return.
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