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Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings; good fences make good neighbours

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Canada is sending a multi-national force to the United States today. No wait, sorry, that’s just the Maple Leafs going to visit the boys in red.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings
I think that move won the gold medal in the pairs competition last year.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings: Game #46

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Some smelly old place they named Joe.

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet, Fox Sports Detroit, the home of Mickey Redmond (shut up, I like him) [Who? - Acha]

Opponent SBNation Site: Winging it in Motown. They’re sarcastic, don’t go there.

I went there.

As a Red Wings fan I hate to admit how likable the Leafs have become. They’re incredibly young (nine rookies!), flashy, move the puck as good as any team in the league right now and they push “these kids like to have fun” past cliche. If I could make a comparison, they remind me of an NHL version of Team North America from the World Cup—they do have Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly who are both alums.

And now everything is just ruined! How can I make fun of them now? How can I chortle about them re-signing Thomas Vanek which would be hilarious if it happened. How can I laugh at Frans Nielsen’s contract? How can I make “keep the streak alive” jokes. How can I vent my spleen that a team I used to love (er, sorry) [Same. - Acha] has turned into this wretched crew of geriatrics older than the building they play in, slowly skating around the ice with less verve than Mickey Redmond at the alumni game? How?

Oh, and don’t go over there, they make the tired old “it was 4-1” joke and well, yawn.

Even so, even with that stupid old cliché, it’s hard to make fun of a team for having to waive Drew Miller to make cap space for Niklas Kronwall to come back off of IR when they are that nice. I want to mention that they have to use LTIR to clear the cap while they are in the big ball of more or less tied for last teams in the Atlantic, but now I can’t.

So fine, Red Wings fans, out nice the Canadians. Fine. It’s fine. Thank you kindly, even.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

Martin Marincin - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Detroit Red Wings

(stolen without remorse from the nice Red Wings fans)

Forward Lines

Nyquist-Zetterberg-Tatar

Athanasiou-Nielsen-Mantha

Abdelkader-Sheahan-Jurco

Miller-Glendening-Helm

Defence Pairings

DeKeyser-Green

Ericsson-Ouellet

Kronwall-Jensen

Goaltenders

Petr Mrazek projected starter


The Leafs are on a back-to-back heading into the all-star break. They will likely play McE one of these games. Your guess is as good as mine which it will be.

Meanwhile, about that ball of teams more or less tied for last in the Atlantic. The Leafs, with as many as four games in hand on some of them, have 53 points and are white-knuckling their grip on a wildcard spot. Tampa Bay, Detroit, Buffalo and Florida all have 49 or 50 points. That is one very tightly packed division. The games in hand are the real difference, not the three points.

All of which is to say, good heavens, my predictions for this division were totally out to lunch. And I’m not going to claim to know how it will finish up. There’s hints in the standings numbers, but they are only hints, and regardless of the situation now, the only way to make the playoffs is to win more games than the other guys.

So, how about a win tonight, Leafs?