Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: The Rock
Broadcast/Streaming: MSG+ and Sportsnet Ontario
Opponent SBNation Site: All About the Jersey
The Leafs start their bye week on Sunday, so leading up to that is yet another back-to-back where the first game is a road game. This schedule this year earns the Hershey’s Kiss emoji.
A trip to New Jersey means a chance to see the Leafs only 20-goal scorer last year, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau.
This year, the Leafs already have one in Auston Matthews. At not quite halfway through the season, Nazem Kadri is second with 14, James van Riemsdyk is third with 13, and Mitch Marner is fourth with 10. Connor Brown and William Nylander are right behind him with nine each.
That means there are two players on each of the top three lines that are in a position to get to 20 goals.
Parenteau, meanwhile, is leading the Devils in goals with 11. This isn’t quite like his year on the Leafs, where he was the only man who could score after van Riemsdyk was injured. The Devils have five other players at eight or more goals. But they aren’t scoring like the Leafs are now.
Which raises the question: how would Parenteau fare on the Leafs of today? He seems like he’s putting in a nearly identical performance for the Devils as he did for the Leafs, driving play, working on a line with good players, putting it in the net reliably. Could he have handled the Toronto pace this year?
The Devils have the lowest Corsi For rate in the league right now, and the Leafs are third highest. The Devils also have an okay middle of the pack Corsi Against rate, while Toronto is third worst. These teams are night and day, and while he’s playing with young and fast players on the Devils, I’m not sure he could drop into Connor Brown’s spot and make an impact.
When assessing players, it is difficult to factor in such dramatic differences in team play and ability. It’s possible Parenteau is just a really good bad team forward. But it isn’t very often that the end of a player’s career has such success, so I’m happy he’s bucking the trend of hitting age 30 and being shown the door in the NHL, no matter how he’s doing it.
Toronto Maple Leafs
(based on the last couple of games and practices)
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
Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak
New Jersey Devils
(from Daily Faceoff, so likely wildly incorrect)
Taylor Hall - Pavel Zacha - P.A. Parenteau
Miles Wood - Sergey Kalinin - Nick Lappin
Luke Gazdic - Devante Smith-Pelly - Beau Bennett
Andy Greene - Ben Lovejoy
Damon Severson - Kyle Quincey
Jon Merrill - Steven Santini
This is a back-to-back for the Leafs, so goaltender choice is not a given. From the activity at practice yesterday, the guess is Antione Bibeau is getting the start, leaving Montréal and Carey Price to Frederik Andersen.
It was all a terrible fever dream!
Frederik Andersen in the starter's net for #Leafs— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 6, 2017
With the break after, now it seems that Andersen might play both because no way are the Leafs putting the backup in against the Habs on a Saturday night. Are they? Are they? Tell me they aren’t!
Now we need to talk about Boston. They lost last night to the Oilers. And that means that if Toronto wins this game in regulation, they will be tied in points with Boston with Toronto holding the first tiebreaker of games played. The Leafs will move into the playoff spot currently held by the Bruins.
It’s been two years since the Leafs were sitting in a playoff spot during the season. It’s not a chair the Leafs can keep forever, if they get to sit in it. The Lightning are right there in points, so is Florida, and Boston aren’t just going to go away. But it’s there, in sight, right now.
Go Leafs Go!