Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Rubber Match Against the Detroit Red Wings
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 the 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.
Nov 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov (47) battles with Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm (43) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
In four games against the Red Wings this season the Leafs are 2-1-1.
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Leafs Injury Report
Roman Polak is out with a knee injury
Leo Komarov is doubtful with a concussion
James Reimer is questionable with a groin injury
Red Wings Injury Report
Justin Abdelkader is outwith a shoulder injury
Jonas Gustavsson out with a shoulder injury
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) celebrates game winning shootout goal by center Mike Santorelli (not pictured) in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Toronto won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
When I watched Wednesday’s game between the Leafs and Red Wings I couldn’t help but recall one of my favourite movies growing up as a child, the Mighty Ducks. The classic Disney series was not only hilarious but it can teach you about real life situations which is basically what every Disney movie was meant to do. In this case the Mighty Ducks could be considered the Leafs, a team that is seen as dysfunctional but in the end they find a way to defy all odds and win the championship. Okay maybe I am going too far.
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) makes the save on a shootout attempt by Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21) at Joe Louis Arena. Toronto won 2-1 in an overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The reason why I bring all this up is because of how James Reimer basically carried the Leafs on his back and got them an undeserving win. The amount of breakaways, point blank chances and flurry of shots would have been impossible for any goalie. But luckily for the Leafs, Reimer had a long time to prepare for this game. Jonathan Bernier had made nine straight starts before Randy Carlyle decided to give Reimer a chance to get back into the net in back-to-back games. The Leafs were poorly outshot 42-19, the Red Wings had 18 shots in the third period alone which reminded me of one of my favourite clips from the Mighty Ducks movies where the goalie Goldberg (played by Shaun Weiss) was strapped to the net while his teammates all shot pucks at him and he could only stand there and try to stop as many pucks as he could.
This also reminded me of a game that I saw where Reimer had to stop three breakaways against the Minnesota Wild. One thing that always scares me about Reimer is when he constantly looks back after making a save it is something that he has always done but it always gets me nervous.
This performance by Reimer was so impressive it was all over twitter that night. It also got another stellar reaction video from Steve Dangle.
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist (14) tries to score on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) defended by center Peter Holland (24) in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Toronto won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Alright I promise that this is all I have to say on Reimer. It was obvious that the Red Wings had the Leafs number but much like last season the Leafs got superb goaltending and offence at critical times. The Leafs may have an easier time on Saturday night with the Red Wings playing the night before however the Leafs will have to fix a lot of things if they want to steal another two points from the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard got the start for the Panthers last night so it is possible that Petr Mrazek could start against the Leafs. This season Mrazek has won all three starts so if the Leafs better come out with a better effort a second time around. It will be interesting to see what type of effort the Leafs play with because if you can get two straight wins against a divisional opponent it could be crucial for a push to the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) skates with the puck defended by Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey (27) in the second period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs DET: 14 GP – 5 goals – 5 assists – 10 PTS
James Van Riemsdyk career vs DET: 9 GP – 3 goals – 2 assist – 5 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs DET: 7 GP – 3 goal – 1 assists – 4 PTS
Joffrey Lupul career vs DET: 22 GP – 9 goal – 6 assists – 15 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs DET: 9 GP- Record: 3-2-2- 2.51 GAA- .917 SV%
James Reimer career vs DET: 5 GP- Record: 1-3, 3.21 GA- .905 SV%
Detroit Red Wings
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist (14) skates with the puck around the net of Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) in the first period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Henrik Zetterberg career vs TOR: 13 GP – 7 goals – 8 assists – 15 PTS
Pavel Datsyuk career vs TOR: 12 GP- 1 goal- 12 assists- 13 PTS
Gustav Nyquist career vs TOR: 8 GP – 5 goals – 2 assist – 6 PTS
Johan Franzen career vs TOR: 8 GP – 2 goals – 4 assists – 6 PTS
Jimmy Howard career vs TOR: 8 GP- Record: 3-2-2, 2.15 GAA- .911 SV%
Keys to Victory
The Red Wings showed the Leafs how a team with a proper structure. The Leafs had a real hard time moving the puck because every time they did they were swarmed by red jerseys. They need to move the puck fast and avoid being put in vulnerable positions.
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle in the bench area in the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Carlyle has not solved the Leafs inability to get the puck and try to keep it in the offensive zone. One of the main issues is positioning and defensive zone coverage where way too often opposing players get wide open for an easy scoring chance, a breakaway or countless chances off of rebounds. I think he needs to make some changes with his lines or something because things will continue to get worse if nothing gets changed. No one is content with how their winning so making changes to the lines will make that clear.
It basically comes down to the Leafs needing to be more urgent with the puck. Once they have it they should do everything they can to keep it. If you do not have it then do not let your opponent dance around your zone with the puck. At one point I saw an opposing player skate backwards in the Leafs zone with the puck, that cannot happen!
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) skates with the puck defended by Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21) in the second period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The reason why Mike Babcock is considered a good coach because he gets his message across and expects every player on his team to play his style. That was evident in the way that every player on Team Canada played during the Olympics, they were so good defensively because every time they lost the puck they would go after the puck and do everything they could to get it back and protect the net.
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Toronto won 2-1 in an overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It had been rumoured that Kessel was playing with an injury but it did not look like that on Wednesday after he scored off of a nice set up from JVR. However that was the only time we really saw the top line do much in the game. Datsyuk and Zetterberg made their presence felt in the game and if the Leafs want any success their top forwards are going to have to be more noticeable. They take too many low percentage shots that get saved easily or they move the puck around without making any attempts to push the puck to the net. That is how the best players do it they go to the net and put themselves in the best position to score.
While I do not expect the Leafs to play as badly as they did the last time against the Red Wings the Red Wings will come out strong like they normally do. They have a lot of good players so you cannot simply isolate Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Whoever plays in net – my guess is that Bernier will start – they might have to be ready for another tough night if the defence does not get their act together.