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Maple Leafs vs Panthers preview: Put a man on Barkov this time, dummies

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How about we don’t leave the Panthers best player alone with the puck?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00PM
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
Broadcast/Streaming: NHL.tv, Sportsnet Ontario, TVA Sports
Opponent SBNation Site: Litterbox Cats

Oh God, not the Panthers again. Not this.

No, it’ll be fine. The team learned their lessons didn’t they? On Tuesday the Leafs went and absolutely destroyed the New Jersey Devils, they didn’t leave Taylor Hall alone to score a hat trick undefended.

Of course on Tuesday night the Panthers beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-2, including three goals in under four minutes.

What we need from the Maple Leafs tonight is a full game version of the final five minutes of the third period that was played in Sunrise on Saturday.

It’s fine.

Everything will be fine.

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Tyler Ennis -Par Lindholm - Connor Brown

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen
Garret Sparks

Florida Panthers lines

Forward Lines

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Mike Hoffman
Frank Vatrano - Henrik Borgstrom - Evgenii Dadonov
Troy Brouwer - Jared McCann - Denis Malgin
Michael Haley - Juho Lammikko - Jayce Hawryluk

Defence Pairings

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
Alex Petrovic - Mackenzie Weegar

Goaltenders

Roberto Luongo
James Reimer


No. You know what? That panicked “this will be fine” was dumb. This WILL be fine. Sure the Panthers are good, and have some great players, but this is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team with a fourth line that would be a second or third line on every other team in the league.

Mike Babcock knows they need to tune up their defense.

It’s also much easier to react to how you played against a team when you play them again within a week. You know them, the memories are fresher, and you hopefully have written Barkov’s number down in big numbers on the wall of the dressing room.

All of our memories are still fresh from Katya’s preview on Saturday, but if you missed out, here’s the best part:

I don’t understand the Florida Panthers; let’s just get that out of the way. They are terrible, they shouldn’t be this bad, and even accounting for goaltending troubles, of which they’ve had a tonne, they should not be the team making Ottawa look good.

They have 28 points from 11 wins, and their goal differential is -13. Their Corsi is fine, right about the same as the Leafs, their Expected Goals differential is a little worse, just like the Leafs. They play a slower pace offence to the Leafs, but most teams do, but it’s still good, though. They counter that with much better defensive numbers.

In short the two teams have arrived at the same percentages, more or less, by much different paths. The Leafs run down their path at breakneck speed. The Panthers amble like it’s hot out.

The problem isn’t just the goalies. Their Expected Save Percentage is really low, third lowest in the league, which means that their defensive execution is terrible. Their goalies are underperforming that as well. They also have very poor quality of shots for, and are underperforming that.

It’s the why that’s the mystery, because they have a lot of good players; enough, they should be converting their decent Corsi to something better than they are. Oh, well, if they want to be bad, that’s fine with me.

Both teams come into tonight’s game with big wins. It just so happens that the Leafs beat up on one of the worst teams in the league and the Panthers were able to beat the Sabres, who are just one point back of the Leafs.

It will be a challenging game, but isn’t that better than the old days of the inevitable loss at home to a southwest division team?

Your starters are confirmed to be Frederik Andersen and this guy: