Editor's Note: Another of our new faces is kicking off her PPP career today. Kathryn is a fairly new fan with a love for hockey that started when a roommate introduced her to the Leafs. She lives in Chicago, where she mostly writes words and hangs out in coffee shops. She's not even a little bit Canadian, despite what many people think. You can follow her @ksbrilliance.
It's a bright and shiny new year. As of right now, the Leafs are undefeated-no blown leads, no 6-0 ass-kickings, no periods without a shot registered on goal. All our beautiful dreams about this team can still come true, theoretically. We've got like, one week, tops, before the actual Leafs start bursting our bubbles. Let's make the most of it.
Since it's kind of hard to predict how the Leafs will do against the Habs in the very first game of the year, here are some things to look out for to help us get an idea of whether the Leafs actually got better:
How do the new additions to the Leafs look? We got a glimpse during pre-season games, but now that the roster is set and the wins actually mean something, we'll really be able to see who's good at what (and who should maybe not have made the team). Who's this year's Mason Raymond, and who's this year's David Clarkson? (Besides Clarkson himself.)
Have the systems changed at all? How lost are the Leafs in their own end? Are they still way too low and chasing the puck way too often? Admittedly, it can be hard to spot systems, but it won't be hard to see if the Leafs are scrambling and heading to the wrong areas instead of making smart moves.
Are all four lines played evenly? Now that the facepunchers are gone (HALLELUJAH) will Carlyle actually give everyone reasonable minutes? Or will poor Carter Ashton still spend most of his time on the bench?
The Habs jettisoned some of their least effective players this offseason (fare thee well, Douglas Murray, we'll miss your drain on the Habs' possession) and, like most of the NHL, walked away from their facepunchers. This includes George Parros, who got hit in the head pretty badly on opening night last year. (Hopefully we'll be able to get through the game tonight without any similar incidents.) Last year, Habs-Leafs matchups were some of the most fun, high-energy games, and I don't expect this year to be any different.
My predictions: The Leafs win, but just barely (say, 3-2, with the game tied for most of the night) and are outshot by about 10-15 over the whole night. The camera captures Kessel yawning during the torch ceremony and it's all we hear about for the next week. P.K. Subban tries to fart on Bernier and feels the "wrath" of Clarkson.