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Preview: Maple Leafs in New York City

The Rangers are trying to convince everyone (and themselves) they’re a top team now. Are they?

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ New York Rangers
07:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Watch on: MSG, TSN4

Opponent’s Site: Blueshirt Banter

The Leafs last game was at home on December 13 against the Anaheim Ducks, which Toronto won by a score of 7-0. The Leafs have a record of 19-5-6 so far.

The New York Rangers last played at home on December 12 against the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers won by a score of 4-3, and their current league record is 15-10-5.

Them

The Rangers are coming off a win against this year’s “it” team, the Devils, and the Rangers must really hate that the team from Jersey is better than them. What they are trying to do this year is be more than Igor Shesterkin. Are they succeeding?

Toronto vs Rangers

Toronto Stat New York
Toronto Stat New York
73.3 - 3rd Points % - Ranking 58.3 - 13th
3.333 - 12th Goals/Game - Ranking 3.067 - 19th
2.333 - 2nd Goals Against/Game - Ranking 2.8 - 10th
24.5 - 9th Power Play% - Ranking 22.7 - 16th
80.0 - 12th Penalty Kill% - Ranking 80.0 - 14th
10.5 - 10th Team Sh% - Ranking 9.3 - 25th
0.920 - 2nd Team Sv% - Ranking 0.905 - 12th
William Nylander - 17 Most Goals (NST) Mika Zibanejad - 15
Mitchell Marner - 37 Most Points (NST) Artemi Panarin - 35
Michael Bunting - 38 Most PIM (NST) Jacob Trouba - 35
Morgan Rielly - 23 TOI Leader (NST) Adam Fox - 25.16

If you run down those stats, you can see that the Rangers aren’t bad, and their goalie performance is merely ordinary, but they aren’t particularly good at anything. You can go a long way in the NHL by just not being bad at any one thing, but it’s very hard to do that when your shooting % tanks.

In an interesting coincidence we’ll see play out, the team most similar to the Rangers is the Washington Capitals, and both of those teams aren’t far off the struggling Calgary Flames in terms of how they’ve played so far this season. Neither bad nor good, with no exceptional skill.

The Rangers are a little better than Toronto at the quantity of shots allowed, but we’re talking fractions of a shot per 60 minutes. The Leafs have better offence by a small amount, and both teams have power plays that can hurt you. To be frank, and I don’t expect anyone to believe this because the win/loss record clouds the view, there’s not much difference between these two teams in the general quality of play. The Leafs have the white hot goaltending this year, and they have somewhat better offensive systems and skill. That’s the entire amount of light between them to this point.

Lines

Source: Vince Mercogliano via Daily Faceoff from practice on the 13th.

Artemi Panarin - Mika Zibanejad - Barclay Goodrow
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Chris Kreider - Vincent Trocheck - Jimmy Vesey
Sammy Blais - Jonny Brodzinski - Julien Gauthier

Ryan Lindgren - Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller - Braden Schneider
Libor Hajek - Jacob Trouba

Igor Shesterkin - presumed starter
Jaroslav Halak

Us

The lines below are as of practice, and it seems like Jordie Benn is coming off IR on this short road trip. It might be today, but the Leafs don’t need him, per se, since Brodie is starting to play top pair minutes and Timmins has settled into a totally fine 6/7 defender role.

Lines

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Denis Malgin - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - David Kämpf - Pierre Engvall
Zach Aston-Reese - Pontus Holmberg - Joey Anderson

Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
TJ Brodie - Conor Timmins

Matt Murray - likely starter
Ilya Samsonov

The Game

The only question I have is will Murray be motivated to be so good he gets the belt from Samsonov? That would basically make Kyle Dubas explode with smugness. It’s his goalie gamble, wrestling and winning all rolled into one thing.

Go Leafs Go!