Chicago Blackhawks @ Toronto Maple Leafs
Air Canada Centre; Toronto, ON
7:00 p.m. ET; TSN4
SBN Pizza Ruiners: Second City Hockey
The unstoppable force meets the very movable object! The Leafs are losers of their last three games, in which they've been outscored 12-2. Their most recent loss was to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that is running away with the Auston Matthews sweepstakes, is coached by a crazy man that drove away their star player, and has a GM so nuts that he voluntarily traded for David Clarkson. The Leafs lost to that. It's been a rough week.
Sure, the Leafs have been playing okay; I can't hate on the process, but the results have been dogshit. Two goals in three games; they're scoring as much as a frat boy in a convent.
Welp, it ain't getting any easier.
Tonight, they play the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of nine straight games. With a win tonight, they'll be the second team this season to push a streak into double digits. It's a weird thing to say about the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they've quietly been very, very good after a rough start. They are now tied for the Central Division lead at 62 points.
Logic dictates that this should be a romp for the Blackhawks, but the Leafs, as you all know, defy all logic. They're 5-1 against the other three teams in the Western Conference's top four (Dallas, St. Louis, and Los Angeles), but they couldn't even solve Columbus the other night. Go figure. Plus, the Blackhawks' last win at the Air Canada Centre came on March 5, 2011. The Leafs have won two straight home games against Chicago, because somehow, Peter Holland transforms into some voodoo magic hockey wizard on the same level of all-stars such as Patrick Kane, or Leo Komarov.
But, the really big story is the return of Richard Panik, acquired by the Blackhawks in a minor-league deal. Despite spending this season with the Marlies, Chicago has him on their NHL roster. He even got a point against Montreal last night; what a guy! No word on whether the ACC will have a video tribute of his highlights, which are basically that one time he got into a fight, and the board jump celly he had against the Red Wings.
Probable Leafs Lineup
No lineup changes expected for the Leafs tonight. James Reimer gets the start tonight. JVR remains injured. Species remains sad. Matthias remains on what I lovingly call the "trade bait line." Frank Corrado resumes his role of sitting in the pressbox and ensuring Lou's food is cut up in small enough pieces that he can chew it.
Grabner - Kadri - Komarov
Matthias - Bozak - Parenteau
Winnik - Holland - Lupul
Leivo - Froese - Boyes
Gardiner - Phaneuf
Marincin - Rielly
Hunwick - Polak*
*EDITOR'S NOTE: I missed the last game. Dear God; this is actually a thing?! I guess some men want to watch the world burn.
Probable Chicago Lineup
The Blackhawks played in Montreal last night, so I doubt they'll practice today, and will probably go with the lines they had last night. Backup Scott Darling is the expected starter tonight, as Corey Crawford played last night.
Andrew Shaw - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane
Andrew Desjardins - Phillip Danault - Teuvo Teravainen
Richard Panik - Dennis Rasmussen - Ryan Garbutt
Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Riemsdyk - Brent Seabrook
Rob Scuderi - Michal Roszival
The Leafs will somehow win this game 5-1, because the world ceases to make any sense at all. Species will be happy that there is a van Riemsdyk playing in Toronto tonight.