Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: New York Rangers Out for Revenge


Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: New York Rangers Out for Revenge

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

Oct 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Joffrey Lupul (19) celebrates the teams sixth goal against the New York Rangers scored during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers (6-4-2) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-2) – 7:00 p.m. on CBC

The Leafs picked up their first win of the season against the Rangers, winning 6-3.

Leafs Injury Report

Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain.

David Booth is out with a broken foot.

Joffrey Lupul is out with a broken hand.

Daniel Winnik is unlikely to play as a result of an upper body injury.

Jake Gardiner is questionable with a bruised foot.

Projected Line Combinations (Leafs)

If Winnik is unable to play, then Josh Leivo (who Leafs recalled yesterday) would most likely draw into the lineup.

If Gardiner is unable to play, expect Morgan Rielly to draw back in. (I expect Rielly to come in whether Gardiner plays or not).

Rangers Injury Report

Ryan McDonagh out with a shoulder injury.

John Moore out because of a suspension.

Dan Boyle out with a broken hand.

Line Combinations (Rangers)

Game Preview

Nov 4, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (11) is stopped by Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the third period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The last seven days has not been ideal for the Leafs, after winning three straight games last week. The Leafs return home after an abysmal road trip, where they could only muster one out of four possible points. The Rangers have been improving after their poor start to the season, going 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.

New York will get a boost to their lineup with the return of Derek Stepan, who will make his season debut. Stepan had been recovering from a fractured fibula that he suffered during training camp. The Rangers won their last game against the Detroit Red Wings in overtime 3-2, with Derrick Brassard scored the game winner. Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash have had great chemistry to start the season. Nash is second in the NHL in goals with 10.

Nov 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Daniel Winnik (26) is treated on the ice after sustaining an injury in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs continue to add names to their injury list, with Winnik and  Gardiner suffering injuries in their last game against the Colorado Avalanche. Winnik had a scary injury, where it looked like he landed on the back of his head. Gardiner suffered a bruised foot after blocking a shot. It is uncertain whether both players will miss any time as a result of their injuries. For Winnik’s sake, the Leafs have to be cautious with their approach to his injury. It was not a minor injury at the time and you cannot jeopardize his long-term health.

Nov 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) shoots the puck past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) as defenseman Cody Franson (4) and defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) defends the zone in the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The trend that seems to plague the Leafs is their poor start to games. It was obvious in the game against Arizona, where the team fell behind 3-0 early without any response from the team. The same thing could have happened in the game against Colorado, but Jonathan Bernier was able to keep the Leafs in the game during the first period.

This is something the Leafs need to fix, but it speaks to the issues that this team has been dealing with since last year, i.e. their inability to play a full 60 minute game. This cannot happen against the Rangers, because they will take advantage of the Leafs poor play.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel career vs New York: 28 GP- 8 goals- 11 assists- 19 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs New York: 15 GP- 3 goals- 8 assists- 11 PTS
** James Reimer career vs New York: 5 GP (4 games started)- 2 wins- 1 loss- 1 OTL- 3.08 GAA- .912 sv%
** Bernier career vs New York: 5 GP (4 games started)- 1 won- 1 loss- 2.98 GAA- .926 sv%

** depending on who starts in goal.

New York Rangers

Nash career vs Toronto: 15 GP- 5 goals- 6 assists- 11 PTS
Stepan career vs Toronto: 14 GP- 2 goals- 9 assists- 11 PTS
St. Louis career vs Toronto: 53 GP- 18 goals- 34 assists- 52 PTS
Cam Talbot career vs Toronto: 3 GP(2 games started)- 2 wins- 0 losses- 0.80 GAA- .969 sv%

Keys to Victory

Nov 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Reto Berra (20) defends his net in the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Scoring first seems to work out well for the Leafs, so maybe it will be nice if they got the first goal of the game (they are undefeated when they score first). If they start the game the same way they did against the Arizona Coyotes and the Avalanche, then it could be a long night for Leafs fans.

The Leafs are no longer undefeated when Kessel scores a goal, but they have not lost in regulation (see what I did there). When it comes to playing against an elite team like the Rangers, the Leafs need their top line players to be at their best. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and Red Wings, the Leafs top line players were practically invisible on the ice. They have been getting contributions from players like Peter Holland and Richard Panik which is great to see and maybe they can ease the load of the top line.

Oct 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (33) deflects the puck shot by Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov (47) during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Toronto Maple Leafs won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

As you probably read above, Talbot seems to play well against the Leafs. It’s not expected that a backup goalie plays incredible against the Leafs, but nothing surprises me when it comes to Toronto. The Leafs need to find a way to get Talbot off his game, maybe by getting more traffic in front of the net or try to get some shots on him early.

The Leafs have made some brutal turnovers that led to some easy goals for the opposition to get ahead early. The Leafs need to play smarter with the puck and avoid bad passes that puts their defence and goaltenders in a vulnerable position.

Nov 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates past Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Stephane Robidas (12) and defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) in the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One thing I have noticed is that the Leafs have a tendency to try and pass it back into their zone. If you are a team that has troubles in your own end you do not want to spend a lot of time there. The Leafs need to work more as a team and try to help each other out – it cannot fall on one player when everything goes wrong. This is where the leaders need to step in and be a proper example on and off the ice.

Oct 11, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak (46) checks Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Spaling (13) at Air Canada Centre. The Penguins beat the Maple Leafs 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Roman Polak has been a workhorse this season for the Leafs. He played 28:12 minutes in the Leafs last game against the Avalanche. He made just one error on the Alex Tanguay goal, but he set the tone physically and hopefully the rest of the team can be inspired with this type of play. Dion Phaneuf played 31:07 minutes in that game and it showed, because he looked exhausted in the overtime period.

Nov 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf (3) and Chicago Black Hawks forward Patrick Kane (88) battle for position during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Phanuef needs to try and be more physical, because from what I have seen lately he has looked slow (cue the pylon jokes), lacks intensity, does not finish checks and gets beat way too often by opposing forwards. I’m not sure if it is because Phaneuf wants to avoid making a big mistake or is dealing with an injury, but something has to change and what better way to show that then against Nash.

Nov 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the second period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure how the Leafs will fair in this game which, along with their game against the Ottawa Senators, will be difficult. If the Leafs cannot find a way to survive the opening period, then it will be hard to beat the Rangers. They have found a way to pick up their game after a slow start, but that was against Colorado and Arizona. The Rangers will not let the Leafs get away with that. The fact that they beat the Rangers gives them some confidence, but they better not come into the game too overconfident.