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Maple Leafs Game Day: Who is this strange team coming to Toronto?

They’ve come from a far away land, crossed the border and will play the Leafs tonight.

New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Rangers
7 p.m., at Scotiabank Arena, on Sportsnet, NHLN, TVAS and MSG

Opponent’s Site: Blueshirt Banter

Them

Who are these strangers from a foreign land? The last time we saw the Rangers, they were a very, very bad team with a goalie who had the knack of beating the Maple Leafs. Things have changed a little as they do a rapid retool and rebuild. If you’re expecting the Buffalo Sabres just with big city arrogance, you’re off the mark.

Most predictions have the Rangers flirting with a wildcard spot and they could grab a Metro playoff birth if the other teams cooperate. This is game four for the Rangers, and they have a bad loss to Washington, an OT loss to the Stars and a win over Montréal heading into tonight’s contest.

In general, the team is very weak at five-on-five, particularly offensively, and extremely powerful on the power play. Taking any penalties against this team is very high risk.

They have one of the best young defenders in Adam Fox, and the rest of the defence corps ranges from good to to good enough. Their top line is their only certain offensive threat, but there’s other talented players buried in the good pros on the lower lines. Their real strength is a tandem of young goalies, both of whom can beat any team on any given night.

Kaapo Kakko is on IR, and Ryan Strome is in COVID protocol (no details as to why) so they are a depleted team up front. Gregg McKegg was recalled on Friday.

Us

The Leafs debuted new lines yesterday as they work a new guy into the forward ranks, name of Auston Matthews — you may have heard of him. Justin Holl is back, Timothy Liljegren is scratched.

Lines are expected to look like this:

Nick Ritchie - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Michael Bunting - John Tavares - William Nylander
Alexander Kerfoot - David Kämpf - Ondřej Kaše
Jason Spezza and Pierre Engvall sharing the centre position with Wayne Simmonds as a winger

Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Travis Dermott

Jack Campbell
Michael Hutchinson

The power play at practice had Matthews on the top unit, Spezza on the second unit and Engvall off the power play.

The Game

For our first look at the actual Leafs lineup this season, the Rangers are not a strong test, but there’s nothing wrong with just easing into things. The key to beating the Rangers is to play solid hockey for 60 minutes, stay out of the box, and don’t get frustrated if the goalie is the best player on the ice.

Go Leafs Go!