Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Off to the Desert Against the Arizona Coyotes
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.
Jan 20, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) carries the puck as Phoenix Coyotes right wing Shane Doan (19) pursues during the third period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs (6-4-1) @ Arizona Coyotes (4-6-1): 9:00 p.m. on Sportsnet ON
Toronto won both games against the Coyotes last season, one in a shootout.
Leafs Injury Report
Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain
David Booth is out with broken foot
Joffrey Lupul is out with a broken hand
Coyotes Injury Report
David Moss questionable with an upper-body injury
Dec 19, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Phoenix Coyotes center Antoine Vermette (50) drives to the net as Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) gives chase at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Coyotes 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to make their first trip to the Western Conference on Tuesday against the
Arizona Coyotes (going to have to get used to that). The Leafs are 3-0-1 on the road this season which has to be better if the Leafs want to contend for the playoffs, last season the Leafs were 14-20-7 on the road.
The Coyotes are a difficult team to grasp this season because under coach Dave Tippett they have always been a competitive team, however, the Coyotes do not look like that same team. Their last game against the Washington Capitals was a high scoring affair which is unlike the Coyotes because they are usually a sound defensive team. Plus, I am not sure if I want to get into a scoring match against Alexander Ovechkin, but that’s just me. Goalie Mike Smith has been on the decline since his last appearance in the playoffs. This season he has a .873 save percentage and a 3.84 GAA (goals against average), for a goalie that made the Team Canada Olympic team that is not good.
Oct 31, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) during the third period at Nationwide Arena. The Leafs won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Maple Leafs are having their problems defensively this season but their goalies are having a better season compared to Mike Smith. Phil Kessel has been great on the road this season scoring four goals, adding five assists for nine points in four road games. The Leafs are averaging just under four goals per game on the road but only averaging under three goals a game at home.
They just came off a thrilling win over the Chicago Blackhawks extending their winning streak to three games. Hopefully their effort form the first two periods against the Blackhawks translates against the Coyotes.
It is hard to say which Coyotes team will show up against the Leafs. Will Mike Smith have a bounce back game? Will the Leafs be able to stop a streaky offence?
Toronto Maple Leafs
Jan 20, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) celebrates with left wing Nikolai Kulemin (41) and center Nazem Kadri (43) after scoring a goal as Phoenix Coyotes players react during the first period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs Arizona: 7 GP- 3 goals- 2 assists- 5 PTS
Dion Phaneuf career vs Arizona: 23 GP- 6 goals- 7 assists- 13 PTS
Jake Gardiner career vs Arizona: 3 GP- 1 goal- 1 assist- 2 PTS
Nazem Kadri career vs Arizona: 2 GP- 1 goal- 1 assist- 2 PTS
** Jonathan Bernier career vs Arizona: 4 GP (three games started)- 3 wins-0 losses- 1.34 GAA- .967 sv%
** James Reimer career vs Arizona: 2 GP- 1 win- 1 loss- 2.44 GAA- .909 sv%
**Depending on who starts in goal
Jan 20, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Shane Doan (19) carries the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Mason Raymond (12) defends during the first period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Doan career vs Toronto: 25 GP- 5 goals- 11 assists- 15 PTS (5 goals, nine assists in his last 15 games against Toronto)
Mikkel Boedker career vs Toronto: 5 GP- 0 goals- 3 assists- 3 PTS
Lauro Korpikoski career vs Toronto: 6 GP- 1 goal- 4 assists- 4 PTS
Keith Yandle career vs Toronto: 6 GP- 1 goal- 6 assists- 7 PTS
** Mike Smith career vs Toronto: 6 GP- 3 wins- 1 loss- 2 OTL- 2.41 GAA- .923 sv%
** Devan Dubnyk career vs Toronto: 3 GP (two games started)- o wins- 1 loss- 1 OTL- 5.14 GAA- .840 sv%
**Depending on who starts in goal
Keys to Victory for Toronto
Dec 19, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) attacks as Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy (5) defends at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Coyotes 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Maple Leafs power play, which ranks 20th in the league at 16.7%, has been on the decline recently. The Leafs have gone 2-for-30 on the power play in the last eight games, but Arizona has allowed five goals on 11 power play chances in their last four games. So Toronto will have to find a way to get some chances with the man advantage. Whether it is getting more offence from their defencemen, or trying to get traffic in front of the net, the Leafs need to take advantage of a poor Coyotes penalty kill which ranks 27th in the NHL at 74.3% this season.
The first goal has been the key to success for the Toronto Maple Leafs, they are 6-0 when they score this season (they only have six wins this season). So either they score first or they find a way to overcome their inability to get back into game when the opposing team scores first.
Nov 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a goal by Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (not pictured) in front of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (50) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
They need to take advantage of the Coyotes struggles defensively. The Leafs have done a good job taking advantage of teams that have struggled this season, i.e. the Buffalo Sabres. The only way to do that is to be persistent in their pursuit of the puck and avoid turnovers. If they underestimate the Coyotes like the Washington Capitals did, it could cost them.
Jan 20, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a save as defenseman Tim Gleason (8) defends and Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17) and left wing Lauri Korpikoski (28) attack during the second period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The third period has been a struggle for the Leafs this season. In their last two games the Leafs were out-shot 37-9 in the third period, luckily for them Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have held the fort down in the third period. My guess is that Jonathan Bernier gets the start because of his success against the Coyotes but it would not surprise me if Reimer got the start because of his last game.
If the top line continues to play like they did last week and they get decent defending, the Leafs have a good chance to come away with the victory.