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Maple Leafs vs Islanders Preview: It’s your time to Sparkle, Garret

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Maple Leafs face the Islanders, and it’s all about the goalie drama.

NHL: New York Islanders at Detroit Red Wings
John Tavares in his last game as an Islander.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs with John Tavares vs New York Islanders without John Tavares in Game #39

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: SBA

Broadcast/Streaming: HNIC on CBC, CBC.ca and SN1; MSG

Opponent SBNation Site: Lighthouse Hockey

Yesterday, before Garret Sparks got an unexpected start in the first half of a back-to-back, Mike Babcock had a bafflegab explanation for that:

After that win over Columbus, he said this:

And then:

Then today we get the news:

He was lying! All the time!

I confess, I called Mr Babcock some intemperate names heard more often out of the mouths of self-satisfied CEOs of Texas teams. Then I might have asked exactly how you injure your groin over Christmas. Care to explain, Freddie? But it seems the Leafs were living in the land of hope, hoping that Andersen would feel well enough to play today.

At any rate, as far as tonight goes, the opportunity is there for Sparks to really dial in and build off a very good game yesterday. I don’t count the second CBJ goal against him, that was a glorious setup that makes me wonder why Columbus isn’t a better team.

While the Leafs were busy rolling the Blue Jackets, the Islanders were playing the Ottawa Senators, and seemed to need both goalies to do that. That seems ominous. Thomas Greiss played 26 minutes and Robin Lehner played 33.

Greiss was pulled early in the second period after letting the Sens get up 3-1. Bold move on the first of a back-to-back, and we need to remember that the Islanders may have filled their team with grinders and good pros while they wait out the terrifyingly bad contracts they’re saddled with, but the coach isn’t a dummy. Barry Trotz will have to pick one of his two goalies to start tonight. Who finishes is anyone’s guess. As for the Leafs, we just want Kasimir Kaskisuo on clipboard duty all night long.

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Patrick Marleau - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Andreas Johnsson - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Connor Brown - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Par Lindholm - Frederik Gauthier - Trevor Moore

Defence Pairings

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

Goaltenders

Garret Sparks
Kasimir Kaskisuo

New York Islanders

from Leftwinglock.com and the pregame warmup yesterday

Forward Lines

Anthony Beauvillier - Mathew Barzal - Josh Bailey
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Joshua Ho-Sang
Tom Kuhnhackl - Valtteri Filppula - Leo Komarov
Ross Johnston - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin

Defence Pairings

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield

Goaltenders

Thomas Griess
Robin Lehner


So all these goalie shenanigans is taking the heat off of John Tavares nicely. I’m sure this game will be emotional for him, and we want the Leafs to score early, score often, and just never stop. Four-goal game? Why not?

The first Leafs game on the Island will be the real narrative monster, tonight is just a little bittersweet. I am betting there will be tribute videos to Matt Martin and Leo Komarov, and they both have a lot of really good friends on the Leafs who will want to say hey. For all the JT hype, I’m just waiting for the first Naz vs Leo shift.

The Islanders put Jordan Eberle on IR today and called up a forward from the AHL. Matt Martin knocked Thomas Chabot out of the game last night with a very late hit. There’s been no word of a suspension, so I suppose he got away with one. It’s not really his MO to go for the headshot, but this wasn’t pretty.

We can assume that Islanders lineup is subject to change.


John Tavares in his last moment on the New York Islanders, doing what he does: