The Toronto Maple Leafs start the first of four games against the playoff bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference and still have a great chance to dictate who qualifies and where they will end up. It is the last Saturday night home game of the season and will wrap up the season series with the Boston Bruins. As always, there will be a member of the Canadian Armed Services recognised for their efforts:
Bombardier Scott Hoo will be recognized at Saturday's game as a member of Luke's Troops. Hoo was raised on a farm in Harley, Ont., about 200 km northeast of Sudbury. He joined the Canadian Forces in 2003 and served with the Royal Canadian Artillery. In 2007, he began training for a mission to Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. He deployed in 2008, spending seven months with a gun detachment in support of an American Infantry battle group.
Damien Cox has a preview that is right in spirit but unfortunately wrong in much else. Brian Burke's and the Maple Leafs' critics and enemies have gleefully watched the team stumbled to 29th place and chortled at the thought of the loss of a top two pick this summer. Now, the Leafs are not going to jump past any teams at this late juncture in the season. The criticism of Phil Kessel is a little off base as he's been one of the best players on the ice in the last two games and could easily have 3 or 4 goals if not for some incredible goaltending by Tim Thomas. Maybe facing a less experienced goalie in Tuukka Rask tonight could make the difference.
|2009 - Tuukka Rask||41||2318||19||12||77||1.99||1096||1019||.930||5|
Oh yeah, except he's one of the best goalies in the NHL this year. Great. The Leafs counter with their Swedish rookie who will be getting his last start in front of the home fans.
|2009 - Jonas Gustavsson||40||2216||16||14||105||2.84||1084||979||.903||1|
However, Kessel's performance against the Bruins is just a sideshow to the trade. If he keeps knocking out 30+ goal seasons he'll be doing his part to make Burke look good. It's on the rest of the team to ensure that next year's pick is nowhere near the top five. Tonight's forward lines:
Viktor Stalberg - Tyler Bozak - Christian Hanson
Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Phil Kessel
John Mitchell - Brayden Irwin - Luca Caputi
Fredrik Sjostrom - Rickard Wallin - Colton Orr