After two blowout losses/Saluteghazi/every other nonsensical thing that happened last week, I thought the time had finally come. At last, the Leafs were going to fail so hard and so spectacularly that Shanahan would have no choice but to throw Randy Carlyle to the curb like a broken toaster. I was willing for just about anything to happen to accomplish that. Go a whole game without a single shot? Lose 19-2 to the Marlies in a practice scrimmage? Get Dion Phaneuf to throw water in Steve Simmons' face? Bring it on. The more chaos, the more likely a firing, right?
This is how you can tell I've only been a Leaf fan for a year. I was.......optimistic. Way too optimistic.
Then the Leafs decisively won two games in a row, because of course they did, and now everyone's calmed down. Randy can breathe easy for a little while. But, Toronto being Toronto, if anything like those Buffalo/Nashville games happens again, people will start screaming for change again.
And who better to re-start the chaos than the Penguins, number one in the Metro and 7-2-1 in their last ten games? The Penguins aren't usually the kind of team that brings chaos in their wake -- unless by "chaos" you mean "Sidney Crosby's mustache" -- but they have beaten the Leafs every time they've played this year. The Leafs have won just two of the eight games they've played against Pittsburgh in the past three seasons. Perhaps more importantly, the Penguins have outshot the Leafs 81-56 this year. If they so choose - and why wouldn't they? - the Penguins could smash the Leafs to pieces. And I, for one, am hoping they will. I know you're not supposed to say that about your favorite team, but this is what having Carlyle as a coach does to a person's sports hopes. A really hard loss could start the "fire Carlyle" train in motion again.
More factors for the game:
Injuries and returns from injury
On the minus side, Roman Polak is hurt, and Stuart Percy is also hurt and can't be recalled from the Marlies, so Korbinian Holzer is joining the Leafs defence (yikes). Chances are good that the Leafs will be overmatched on the right side - Cody Franson is their only decent right-handed D at the moment. But on the plus side, Joffrey Lupul will be back, and David Booth will finally play, so the Leafs could have increased offensive potential. Maybe it will balance out?
The Leafs were tinkering around with their powerplay in practice on Tuesday, most notably removing Nazem Kadri from the 2nd PP unit. Kadri was a big factor on the PP last year, but hasn't scored a point this year. Based on the quotes Kadri gave, it sounds like he may be moved off the PP in the actual game. Taking him off doesn't solve the problem of Kadri not scoring on the powerplay, which is probably more a matter of bad luck than anything else given Kadri's offensive abilities. Will this tinkering also damage the PP itself? Or is there an undiscovered PP genius on the Leafs that will go in Kadri's place? By which I mean, will someone go on a PP hot streak and temporarily stop the bleeding?
Tired, scraggly jokes about whether the Leafs will salute their fans or not
Please, let me be wrong on this one. The salute jokes got worn out well before the "controversy" ended.
Bernier tries to flip someone again and gets a costly penalty. The powerplay goes 0-fer. The Leafs still win, 4-3, because they hate me and never want me to be happy.