Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes: Game #24
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Raleigh, North Caroliana
Broadcast/Streaming: TSN4, Fox Sports - Carolina
Opponent SBNation Site: Canes Country
The Leafs are coming off an extremely irritating pair of games where they played well — at times — and had excellent goaltending but only managed to score a pair of goals and get one loser point. And now again, they face an opponent capable of dominating control of the puck.
The Hurricanes ... how to say this nicely? ... oh why bother? ... they shit the bed in their last game, dropping an embarrassing 6-1 decision to the New York Rangers. And they will have heard about all of their many and various deficiencies as loudly as the Leafs will have about their last two games.
We have two snarly teams who want to prove themselves and will face off to see who is best. Both teams are fast, have good scorers (Toronto has more and better ones), and have goalies they can rely on (most of the time). The trouble is, Carolina has a really good, young defence corps and Toronto has a set of guys who can act the part convincingly some days, less so others.
Time for the Toronto offence to do more than pass the puck around well. They need to shoot often and effectively, and then maybe they’ll score more than once per game.
This is the first game of a back-to-back, so we’ll clarify the goalie choices when we know them.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Lines are from yesterday’s practice where it was revealed Matt Martin is likely to be healthy scratched today. And speaking of acting the part, while he can plausibly imitate a power forward against a lesser team, maybe this is a good game for him to sit out.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Nikita Soshnikov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - William Nylander
Josh Leivo - Patrick Marleau - Connor Brown
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Connor Carrick
Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Brock Mcginn - Derek Ryan - Justin Williams
Jeff Skinner - Elias Lindholm - Phillip Di Giuseppe
Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Josh Jooris
Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury - Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin - Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Cam Ward - confirmed starter
Like the Leafs, the Hurricanes have some forwards riding high shooting percentages. Unlike the Leafs the team has been their normal dominant self possession wise. While they aren’t deep down the middle, the wingers are spread out to make all the lines dangerous with that top line really tough to play against.
Mike Babcock will need a lineup that can meet the Canes on the ice effectively no matter who is matched with whom. This is the issue he and the team have been struggling with for a few weeks, if not the whole season. You can’t carefully use the Tyler Bozak line on the road to get some points out of them, and increasingly, it’s not working at home games either, but if you don’t play James van Riemsdyk, arguably the number two forward on the team right now, you don’t score goals.
We expect to see the swap of Marner and Nylander for another game, and some showcasing of the press-box duo of Soshnikov and Leivo as well. If the end result is a more effective Bozak line and more minutes for van Riemsdyk, I’m all for it.
It’s hard to tell if Babcock is completely done with Dominic Moore, or if this is just a bump in the road, but he’s been very replaceable-looking lately, and Babcock is developing a reliance on Marleau at centre that’s understandable, but I don’t like it long term. I’m also very sure he doesn’t care what I like! If I works, I’ll grow to love it.
Oh, just win, Leafs. Just score a billion goals and win it.