Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Halloween Hockey Against the Injury-Riddled Blue Jackets
We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
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The Leafs were 0-3-0 last season against the Blue Jackets.
Leafs Injury Report
Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain
David Booth is out with broken foot
Blue Jackets Injury Report (Brace Yourself)
Nathan Horton out with a back injury
Boone Jenner out with a broken hand
Brandon Dubinsky out with a lower body injury
Matt Calvert out with an upper body injury
Sergei Bobrovsky out with a broken finger
Artem Anisimov out with a concussion
James Wisniewski out with a broken finger
Mark Letestu out with a groin injury
The Leafs and Blue Jackets will square off at Nationwide Arena on Halloween night for the first of three meetings this season. The Leafs were dominated by Columbus last season, being outscored 13-3 in three games. Tonight, this Blue Jackets team will look a lot different as they currently have eight core players sidelined on the injured reserve list.
Oct 17, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) against the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jackets enter tonight’s contest looking to get back to .500 and end a three-game losing streak. Their roster has been depleted by injuries, perhaps most notably they will be without their starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the second game in a row tonight. Unlike Toronto, Columbus does not have the luxury of two reliable starting goaltenders. Curtis McElhinney has been a backup his whole career, sporting a 3.01 GAA and .901 SV% in 99 games played. They will be looking to take advantage of a shaky Leafs team and grind out two points tonight.
At the other end of the ice, the Leafs find themselves with a great opportunity to hop over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
Oct 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner (51) congratulates goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) on his shutout against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Buffalo 4-0. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
After dominating a weak Buffalo Sabres squad on Tuesday and holding them to just ten shots, the Leafs have run into Columbus at the perfect time.
Dubinsky, Horton, and Anisimov have lit up the Leafs throughout their careers. They have recorded a combined 52 points in 70 career games against Toronto. However, the Leafs’ defence won’t have to worry about them on this night. The dynamic offence that seemed to score at will against them last season should look a little less dangerous.
The Leafs need to capitalize on this matchup, as it may look a whole lot different when they meet again in January. The win becomes that much more important because after the game, the Leafs fly home to play the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel career vs CBJ: 8 GP – 3 goals – 2 assists – 5 PTS
James Van Riemsdyk career vs CBJ: 6 GP – 1 goal – 4 assists – 5 PTS
Joffrey Lupul career vs CBJ: 20 GP – 6 goals – 8 assists – 14 PTS
Doin Phaneuf career vs CBJ: 25 GP – 3 goals – 5 assists – 8 PTS
James Reimer career vs CBJ: 2 GS – Record: 0-2-0 – 4.37 GAA – .852 SV%
Jonathan Bernier career vs CBJ: 4 GS – Record: 2-2-0 – 2.43 GAA – .916 SV%
Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Johansen career vs TOR: 4 GP – 4 goals – 1 assist – 5 PTS
Scott Hartnell career vs TOR: 29 GP – 7 goals – 5 assists – 12 PTS
Nick Foligno career vs TOR: 30 GP – 4 goals – 6 assists – 10 PTS
Keys to Victory for Toronto
– I sound like a broken record, but the Leafs need to start this game strong from the moment the puck drops. They have won all four games this season when scoring the first goal. They need to try to bury this depleted Blue Jackets team early, as it will be a big challenge for them to come back with the lack of experience and depth throughout their lineup.
Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) shoots the puck on a breakaway against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre. Ottawa defeated Toronto 4-3 in an overtime shoot-out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
– Both teams have been averaging 31.2 shots against them per game so far this season. If the Leafs can reach this shot total against the Blue Jackets tonight they are likely to score at least three or four goals. Regardless of who starts in net for the Leafs, they have a huge advantage in the crease tonight against McElhinney. They should be shooting from everywhere in the offensive zone and swarming the net for juicy rebounds. It would be great to see Kessel, Lupul and JVR all with 5+ shots tonight.
– Kevin Chroust of the Associated Press reported that the Blue Jackets have killed just 11-of-17 penalties in their last four games. It is a great special teams matchup for the Leafs and time to get their power play going as right now it sits at just 16.2%. With such talented goal scorers up front and the likes of Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly on the back end, it is a wonder how the power play hasn’t been better based on talent alone. In my opinion, they need to do a better job of working the puck down low and creating more chances in the slot and across the crease. The umbrella does provide open passing lanes, but the majority of the power play shots have come from the outside and have ended up being blocked or just too easy for goaltenders to stop.
Apr 8, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
– The Leafs have only won back-to-back games once this season. Despite playing a weaker opponent, they played a great all-around game against Buffalo on Tuesday night. They were dominant in all three zones for a full 60 minutes and the 4-0 final was very well-deserved. Sometimes I wonder if they just forget how well they can play when they follow up a big win with a stinker. They have all the momentum coming into this game coming off a great performance and playing against a team that has lost three straight. They just need to pick up where they left off against the Sabres.
– The little things go a long way and the Buds proved that in their last game. They were shorthanded just twice against Buffalo and overall they played a disciplined game. If they can continue to stay out of the box against the Blue Jackets, it will make it that much harder for Johansen to find the back of the net and for Hartnell to get under the skin of the entire Leafs back end.
Sep 29, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Scott Hartnell (43) is tripped battling for a loose puck in front of Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
– The offence seemed to click with the adjusted lines and it will be interesting to see how head coach Randy Carlyle decides to line them up for this game. Separating Kessel and JVR seemed to balance out the attack and give the opposing defence more to worry about. It is a completely different team when they have all four lines playing well and would be great to see that more consistently.
Advice for your Halloween festivities: get an early start at trick-or-treating or arrive late to your costume party because tonight’s game has the potential to be a fun one for Leafs fans. The Leafs can set the tone for the next chapter of their season with a win and start climbing their way back up the division standings.
What is your prediction for tonight’s game? Should the Leafs stick with the same lines as last game? Let us know in the comments section below.
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