[Open Thread] Toronto Maple Leafs v. Nashville Predators

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This excerpt from an article outlining why the Leafs are playing well is hilarious.

LESS WOZ: Kubina isn't returning to watch from the bench. He was averaging more than 24 minutes before getting hurt and it likely won't take him long to get into that range again. With Bryan McCabe averaging more than 26 minutes, Tomas Kaberle 24-plus and Hal Gill at 21, that won't leave much ice time for Andy Wozniewski, especially since the schedule has the Leafs playing on back-to-back nights only twice in the next four weeks.

"The schedule will allow us to run our top-end defencemen very hard until Christmas," Maurice said.

It's not like fans have not been saying the same thing for, oh about, 27 games. In the absence of groundshaking changes the Leafs could make a simple one: Cure Herpes.

Obviously, like any Leaf fan with a memory, I am exceedingly nervous about tonight's game. It's not bad enough that the Leafs tend to be easily satisfied with themselves but the Predators are a very good team. How good? Well I'll leave it to The Forechecker's first quarter review to explain how a team that was supposed to be falling apart is fighting their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture despite a horrible start. The official site gives us this terrifying nugget of information:

Nashville (13-9-2) was outscored 21-3 in losing all five of its road games in October, but has since gone 6-1-1 away from home while scoring 30 goals.

Not only are the Leafs 5-5-5 at home but in the special teams' battle tonight they are on the short end of the stick although not as much as you would think. Their home powerplay is ranked 21st (15.1%) and will face Nashville's strong road PK that is ranked 11th (84.8%). On the other side of the coin the matchup is more even as the Predators bring the 23rd ranked road PP (13.5%) into the ACC to match up with the Leafs' 25th ranked home PK (76.9%).

Fear of Success

However, the last time the Leafs ran off two straight wins came after two strong performances against the Penguins and Rangers and there was no shortage of foreshadowing:

Don't look now but the Leafs are looking like a real hockey team. Which only means that Washington will probably blitz the Leafs tonight.

The pre-game harangues seem to have given the Leafs new life (right? It has to be the pre-game motivational speeches) so for tonight's installment we look to the last Catholic golden boy to come out of New England, JFK:

You dare not forget today that you are the heirs of that first maple leaf. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Maple Leafs - born throughout the world, tempered by seasons past, disciplined by a hard and bitter coach, proud of our heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the continued slow undoing of that glory to which this Nation of fans has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the NHL.

Vesa Toskala picked up the Player of the Game nod for his 30 saves against the Penguins. Remember to put your guesses for who will score take the first shot, get the first penalty, and score the first goal in the comments. I'll keep a running tally of the results in the right sidebar. We've doubled the number of participants but no one has been able to rack up many points so join in now before everyone's guessing abilities improve. Join now to get in some practice because I'm thinking of having a competition for a prize after the all-star break with wonderful prizes. No idea what they will be but they'll be awesome.

As always, the comment section is a wonderful place to vent and rage between periods or make hopeful predictions that you can tout in the future if they happen to come to pass. Each period and overtime/shootout gets their own section so just reply to the relevant section's main post and as much as it hurts try to refrain from swearing despite the buds' best efforts to make you turn the air blue. All you need to get started is to set up an account to comment so register and share your thoughts.

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