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Toronto Maple Leafs v. New York Rangers

Don't look now but the Maple Leafs' juggernaut rolls into the Big Apple tonight on the back of some consistently solid and often spectacular goaltending and three great pre-game harangues. After taking the reins myself to get the win streak started I have farmed out the motivational speeches to Rick Pitino and JFK who Maple Leaf'd famous speeches of their which in turn have delivered wins over the Penguins and the Predators. Tonight's guest:

 

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela

You can see that there is no easy walk to a championship anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow (of death) again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.

Playoff eliminations and failures have not deterred you in the past and they will not frighten you now. But you must be prepared for them like men in a sport who do not waste energy in vain talk and idle action. The way of preparation for action lies in rooting out all impurity and indiscipline from our organisation especially John Ferguson Junior and Richard Peddie and making the Leafs the bright and shining instrument that will cleave its way to Stanley Cup Glory.

GO LEAFS GO!!"

The home-road splits for a few stats here show that the game will likely be low-scoring and won by whichever team manages to get it's powerplay going. The Leafs have the advantage with a stronger PK on the road but that powerplay is atrocious. It's time for the revamped top unit to start putting numbers up now that rust can no longer be used as an excuse.

Road/Home Maple Leafs Rangers
Powerplay 10.0% - 28th 16.9% - 17th
Penalty Kill 85.7% - 7th 78.3% - 22nd
GF / GA (GP) 32/36 (12) 31/25 (14)
Win% Score/Trail First .538 / .267 .750 / .273

Sean Avery is out of the lineup but the reincarnation of Wendel Clark, Wade Belak, will be back in the lineup looking to extend his point streak, which falls in line with the Leafs' winning streak:

When Wade Belak gets a point, we win. It's been proven. You look back at all my goals and see if we won or not. Usually it's a bad night for the other team.

Glove tap to penaltyshotsca for unearthing a great interview with Belak. Say what you will about the guy but he challenges Jeremy Roenick for the best interview in the NHL. Finally, Hal Gill will be looked to control the Rangers' Jaromir Jagr as he has done for the Leafs since his arrival with some pretty good success. It will be interesting to check the game logs tomorrow to see how much ice-time he will get against the Rangers' star. In terrible news, Pavel Kubina is back in the lineup. That's actually good news but the terrible part is that Herpes somehow continues to find a way to remain with the big club. If the Penguins can waive Mark Recchi then the Leafs can let The Wizard of Woz go.

Player of the Game/SPG/Comments

Vesa Toskala picked up the Player of the Game nod for his 34 saves against the Predators. Weird how that works out that the Leafs' goaltending is hot and they are winning games. But there is no way that the Leafs were a good team last year with solid goaltending instead of Russian Roulette Raycroft. 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 exhult in the great play that you are finally seeing or, as this game comes during a winning streak, wonder how the buds have suddenly forgotten to play hockey. Either way, all that you need to get started is to set up an account to comment so register and share your thoughts.