Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Weathering the Storm Against the Carolina Hurricanes
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.
Mar 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul (19) scores the game winning goal on Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters (35) during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Carolina 6-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Hurricanes (8-19-3) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (19-9-3) 7:00 p.m. TSN.
Leafs went 1-2 against the Hurricanes last season.
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Leafs Injury Report
Roman Polak is a questionable with a knee injury.
Leo Komarov is doubtful with a concussion.
Hurricanes Injury Report
Jordan Staal is out with a broken leg
Andrej Nestrasil is out with an upper-body injury
Alexander Semin is out with a lower-body injury
Jiri Tlusty is day to day with an upper-body injury
Dec 16, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) falls to the ice as he battles for the puck against Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) in front of goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Ducks 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Fellow Tip of the Tower writer Jesse Ferguson asked the same question that most people were wondering after Tuesday’s victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Who is this team? Many are wondering what is the difference between last year’s team which got off to a great start and this year’s team? Unfortunately they lead the league in wins where the are out shot with 13 but the Ducks (the best team in the NHL) are right behind with 12. The Leafs will have to try and clean up the number of scoring chances against them but if you listened or watched Leafs Lunch on TSN and TSN 1050 they pointed to a particular issue. The Leafs do give up a lot of shots from the sides but what is more glaring are the point blank chances that force Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer to make incredible saves.
Dec 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) celebrates with forward Mike Santorelli (25) after scoring a goal against the Dallas Stars during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Really the main difference has been the play of the forwards more particularly those not on the top line. One of those players have been Mike Santorelli who has not only contributed at both ends of the ice but has helped Nazem Kadri become a better all round player. Peter Holland has done a good job in his role as the third line center and on the penalty kill. If the forwards are doing so well offensively then why is there still doubt about the team? Frankly the defence has not been consistent enough to show that they have turned the page from last season. Granted there has been individual improvement but as a team they still need to work on systematic coverage in the defensive zone and need to get Jake Gardiner to return to last year’s form.
Dec 16, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) heads back to his net after a timeout during the third period against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
The Hurricanes are a hard team to diagnose. Their current leading goal scorer is defenceman Justin Faulk with 17 points in 30 games with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner getting off to a slow start. Looking at the Hurricanes roster I couldn’t help but notice the number of former Leafs that are on this team. You have Jay McClemment, and Jiri Tlusty upfront then Tim Gleason, Jay Harrison and John-Michael Liles on the back end. It is no surprise that they have not been a good team this season; Jordan Staal has not played this season, Cam Ward has been “just ok” and their back up Anton Khudobin has no wins this season.
Dec 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk (21) tries to get by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr (44) and forward Jeff Carter (77) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Los Angeles 4-3 in an overtime shot out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
However last season the Leafs were not as successful against the Hurricanes, it was a 6-1 loss in Carolina that started the Leafs tumble from the top of the Eastern Conference to picking eighth overall. If the Leafs want to prove that they have indeed improved then they have to win this game convincingly not just by scoring but playing a better defensive game. They have beaten top teams in the league over their winning streak but what the Leafs have been guilty of letting their foot off the gas against weaker teams like the New Jersey Devils, the Buffalo Sabres, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Arizona Coyotes.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dec 29, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) celebrates his goal with center Tyler Bozak (42) and left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) against the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey (65) applies pressure at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs CAR: 30 GP – 7 goals – 8 assists – 15 PTS
Nazem Kadri career vs CAR: 8 GP – 2 goals – 2 assist – 4 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs CAR: 16 GP – 2 goals – 8 assists – 14 PTS
Dion Phaneuf career vs CAR: 18 GP – 5 goals – 9 assists – 13 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs CAR: 4 GP- Record: 2-2 2.53 GAA- .924 SV%
James Reimer career vs CAR: 8 GP- Record: 4-2-1 2.69 GAA- .912 SV%
Mar 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal (12) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) head up ice at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Carolina 6-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Staal career vs TOR: 35 GP- 17 goals- 20 assists- 37 PTS
Jeff Skinner career vs TOR: 12 GP- 4 goals- 9 assists- 13 PTS
John-Michael Liles career vs TOR: 7 GP- 6 goals- 3 assists- 9 PTS
Justin Faulk career vs TOR: 9 GP- 2 goals- 5 assists- 7 PTS
Cam Ward career vs TOR: 26 GP- Record: 15-8-3, 2.75 GAA- .912 SV%
Anton Khudobin career vs TOR: 3 GP- Record: 2-1, 2.23 GAA- .906 SV%
Keys to Victory
Oct 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner (53) lines up for a face-off against Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Joffrey Lupul (19) at the Air Canada Centre. The Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
he Toronto Maple Leafs should not underestimate any opponent they face this season. In a way they have been underestimated in some of the games that they have played. They still have E. Staal and Skinner who are dangerous offensive weapons that will be motivated to play against their childhood teams.
February 4, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk (21) gets out of the way of a shot on Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward (30) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Ward usually plays well against the Leafs but with the way that Carolina has played defensively he will have to be spectacular. With the way he has played in net this season it is uncertain which goalie the Leafs will play against but my guess is that Ward will be on his game. Even though the Montreal Canadiens beat the Hurricanes easily in their last game the Leafs should expect a bounce back effort.
The Leafs will be playing a lot of games on the road while the World Junior tournament invades Toronto so it will not be easy for the Leafs to try and play a run and gun type of game. If they can try to put more emphasis on defence then it will make life easier for Bernier and Reimer.
This is a game that the Leafs should win but in the NHL nothing is guaranteed, this was evident with the Sabres winning 10 out their last 13 games. A bad performance by the Leafs will raise a lot of questions and issues about the Leafs defensive play.