Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Big Test Against the Anaheim Ducks
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.
Oct 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) skates in Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Anaheim 4-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Leafs went 2-0 against the Ducks last season.
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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.
Ducks Injury Report
Francois Beauchemin out with a broken finger
Eric Brewer out with a broken foot
John Gibson out with a lower-body injury
Dany Heatley is questionable with a groin injury
Cory Perry out with a lower-body injury
Sheldon Souray out with a torn right wrist ligament
Dec 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul (19) scores the winning goal against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) in the the overtime shoot out at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Los Angeles 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Apparently going 9-1-1 in their last 11 games is not enough to be excited about the Leafs. It is understandable given what has transpired with this hockey team over the past few years, but the major issue is when people give excuses for why the Leafs win. Kevin McGran wrote an interesting article for the Toronto Star about the Leafs ability to silence the “Yeah but” crowd. He points out that during their five game winning streak they have beaten the Detroit Red Wings twice, the Vancouver Canucks. who had the best record in the league at the time, the Calgary Flames and the defending Stanley Cup champion LA Kings.
Dec 13, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a save as defenceman Korbinian Holzer (55) and Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar (21) look on during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
As a result the Leafs are creeping up the Eastern Conference only two points behind Detroit and the Tampa Bay Lightning for third in the East with a game in hand. What impressed me about Sunday’s win over the Kings was that the team did not give up after conceding a two goal lead – they got the equalizer and almost ended the game late. This was a tough stretch of games for the Leafs and the Leafs needed to try and capitalize with having so many games at home, because they will have a long road-trip coming up when the World Junior tournament comes to Toronto.
Dec 13, 2014; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen (31) makes a save against Winnipeg Jets during the first period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
The Anaheim Ducks have always been a great team in the regular season but they have had a hard time advancing in the playoffs. This season the Ducks have had to overcome some key injuries to players like Perry, Gibson, Heatley and Beauchemin. However, they are currently on a seven game win streak which has landed them top spot in the NHL with 47 points. They have been receiving strong goaltending from Frederik Andersen who has had to take on a heavier workload with Gibson sidelined, they have also signed Ilya Bryzgalov as insurance.
October 26, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) and center Ryan Getzlaf (15) celebrate the goal scored by left wing Matt Beleskey (39) against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Ryan Kesler trade has worked out well so far this season – he is currently second in points on the Ducks with 24 in 32 games. Where he has had more of an impact is how he has lightened Ryan Getzlaf‘s workload, Getzlaf has been decent this season leading the team in points with 33 in 31 games. A major surprise this season has been the streaky scoring for Matt Beleskey who has 14 goals this season which is tied for the team lead with Perry. The biggest surprise this season has to be the play of defenceman Sami Vatanen who has 23 points in 32 games which ranks him fourth among defencemen.
The Ducks have not fared well in Toronto posting only three wins since they joined the league in 1993 as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel career vs ANA: 6 GP – 4 goals – 5 assists – 9 PTS
James Van Riemsdyk career vs ANA: 4 GP – 0 goals – 3 assist – 3 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs ANA: 4 GP – 4 goals – 3 assists – 7 PTS
Dion Phaneuf career vs ANA: 22 GP – 3 goal – 10 assists – 13 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs ANA: 6 GP- Record: 4-1-1 2.01 GAA- .924 SV%
James Reimer career vs ANA: 3 4 GP- Record: 3-1 3.39 GAA- .903 SV%
Oct 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf (15) gets by Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Anaheim 4-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Getzlaf career vs TOR: 5 GP – 0 goals – 5 assists – 5 PTS
Ryan Kesler career vs TOR: 13 GP- 5 goal- 6 assists- 11 PTS
Frederik Anderson career vs TOR: 1 GP- Record: 0-1 3.12 GAA- .870 SV%
Keys to Victory
Dec 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson (4) takes down Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar (11) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Los Angeles 4-3 in an overtime shot out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks, much like the Leafs, are getting more balanced scoring from both their forwards and defencemen. However, with Perry out it could give the Leafs a boost when it comes to defending Getzlaf and Perry. The Leafs have had to go up against players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Anze Kopitar and held them in check now they have to try and do it against Getzlaf.
Oct 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) scores his first goal of the second period on Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller (1) at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs success has come from their depth scoring, but in a game like this the top line will have to come through big time if the Leafs want to have any chance of beating Anaheim. It has not been a problem recently as the top line has enjoyed great success against the Ducks, last year Kessel scored a hat-trick against the Ducks last season.
I imagine that Berneir will get the start against the Ducks, and if he does he will have a tough task against the Ducks. However we have seen him and Reimer play spectacularly when his defence has not but against the Ducks it will be more important for Bernier to be on his game.
Dec 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Dallas Stars forward Jason Spezza (90) and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik (26) watch the puck at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Dallas 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs need to avoid taking dumb penalties because in the end it will cost the Leafs dearly. The Ducks have way too many weapons especially with Vatanen at the point. If the Leafs do get into penalty trouble it will be up to former Ducks Daniel Winnik and Peter Holland to try and keep the Ducks power play off the board.
Dec 10, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) skates with the puck defended by Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55) in overtime at Joe Louis Arena. Toronto won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
If the Leafs do lose this game it would not be the end of the world but their recent play should give fans confidence that they can match up against top line teams. Jake Gardiner still has a lot of work to do defensively and if he can get to where he needs to be expect better things to come for the Leafs.