Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Off to Sunny Weather and the Florida Panthers
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.
Jan 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Florida Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky (82) skates with the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) and defenseman Cody Franson (4) chase during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
More from Tip of the Tower
- Cam Phillips making his mark on Toronto Argonauts offence
- Toronto Argonauts: 4 storylines ahead of matchup against Redblacks
- Federico Bernardeschi ready for new challenge with Toronto FC
- Toronto Argonauts overcome Roughriders in entertaining Touchdown Atlantic
- Buffalo Bills: Von Miller drawing inspiration from Bruce Smith
Leafs Injury Report
Leo Komarov is doubtful with a concussion.
Panthers Injury Report
Shawn Thornton is out with a groin injury.
Dec 23, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Going into the Christmas break, the Leafs could exhale a bit after they snapped a three-game losing streak against the Dallas Stars with a 4-0 win. Randy Carlyle moved James van Riemsdyk to the second line with Nazem Kadri and Mike Santorelli while shifting Joffrey Lupul to the top line with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak. That actually provided the spark the Leafs needed, as JVR was a plus three in the game with a goal and two assists. It was not until the third period that Jonathan Bernier had to stand tall and preserve his shutout. The Leafs were out shot 19-7 in the third and 43-26 for the entire game. Now it was expected that the Leafs would not try to press too hard with a three goal lead, but there were moments where the Stars could have found a way to attempt a comeback.
Dec 4, 2014; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Tomas Kopecky (82) is congratulated by defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) after his goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the second period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
The Panthers have started to improve with their younger players stepping in to contribute, but they still have a long ways to go before they can be a playoff contender. Their leading goal scorers at the moment are rookie Aaron Ekblad and Nick Bgjustad, both with 19 points in 32 games. Luckily for them Roberto Luongo has provided stability in goal, but their offensive struggles will continue to give them problems. Dave Bolland has encountered a rough start to his new five year contract, with only three points in 11 games.
Dec 23, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) is tripped by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) in front of goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) during the second period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
What the Leafs need to accomplish on this road trip is trying to provide their goaltenders with a consistent defensive effort, especially to start the game. What the Leafs have not done this season is win because they were able to shutdown their opponents with their defence and that should be a concern for the coaching staff and management. Teams cannot rely solely on goaltending and offence to carry them through a season and they must be able to play responsibly in their own end. This is still something this team needs to do and it might take time for it to happen.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel career vs FLR: 30 GP – 12 goals – 8 assist – 20 PTS
James van Riemsdyk career vs FLR: 15 GP- 3 goals- 6 assists- 9 PTS
Joffrey Lupul career vs FLR: 18 GP- 6 goals- 7 assists- 13 PTS
Nazem Kadri career vs FLR: 9 GP- 1 goals- 7 assists- 8 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs FLR: 3 GP (2 GS) – Record: 1-1 2.58 GAA – .938 SV%
James Reimer career vs FLR: 5 GP- Record: 1-3, 3.47 GAA- .868 SV%
Apr 10, 2014; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (27) scores a goal against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Drew MacIntyre (35) in the third period at BB&T Center. The Panthers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Bjugstad career vs TOR: 5 GP- 3 goals- 1 assists- 4 PTS
Jussi Jokinen career vs TOR: 19 GP- 5 goals- 10 assists- 15 PTS
DAve Bolland career vs TOR: 3 GP- 1 goal- 3 assists- 4 PTS
Roberto Luongo career vs TOR: 25 GP– Record: 15-7 2.29 GAA – .926 SV%
Keys to Victory
Apr 10, 2014; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (7) checks Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) in front of goalie Roberto Luongo (1) in the third period at BB&T Center. The Panthers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
The Panthers do not have much talent on offence, but they do have players who cause serious damage if given a chance. The Leafs have underestimated opponents below them in the standings and the Panthers are no different.
Dec 23, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) looks for the rebound in the Dallas Stars zone during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs need to clean up the front of the net, because during their three game losing streak and against the Stars, the opposing players were easily getting to the front of the net uncontested for a point-blank chance on net. This has been mostly because the defence has been caught flat-footed constantly during the game.
The Leafs need to try and get Kessel going. He had many chances to get a goal against the Stars, but could not convert. If this team wants to compete for the playoffs, Kessel has to be more noticeable at both ends of the ice. Against the Panthers this could give him the opportunity to do that against a weaker defensive team, although Luongo will make it a tough night.
Dec 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Peter Holland (24) and Florida Panthers forward Marcel Goc (57) chase a puck during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Panthers have had a lot of their games go to a shootout. The Leafs should try to win the game in regulation, especially with some of the performances we have seen Luongo have in the shootout this season.
Even though Toronto are going to be well-rested for this game they have not played well in Florida, so it will be a tough game. The best way for the Leafs to get a win before moving on to play the Tampa Bay Lightning, is to get off to a hot start.