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Preview: New York Islanders @ Toronto Maple Leafs

The second of three, but who is Sparky the Dragon?

Arizona Coyotes v New York Islanders Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

New York Islanders @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: SN, MSGSN

The Leafs last game was an away game on January 21 against the Montréal Canadiens, which Toronto lost by a score of 3-2. The Leafs have a record of 28-11-8 so far.

The New York Islanders last played at home on January 21 against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders lost by a score of 5-2, and their current league record is 23-20-5.

Them

Their mascot is Sparky the Dragon. He was introduced in 2001. I’m just learning this and wanted to share for those other uninitiated folks. Knowledge is... Let’s move on.

The New York Islanders have not had a very good January. I was looking at the Leafs record through the month and lamenting their poor play since the start of the New Year, but things with the Isles are much worse.

They have dropped 8 of their last 9. Yikes. Despite that, they are only three points outside of the playoff picture. They lack the two games in hand Pittsburgh holds over them, but they haven’t quite played themselves into the Bedard conversation.

This is a season where it pays to know what you are. I would have expected the Isles to be their annoying, stingy, suffocating selves this season, but also lack some offensive punch. Instead they have the same amount of 5-on-5 goals as the Leafs, and sit 12th league wide in even strength goals against. That sounds pretty good. The 16.7% success rate on the power play by the Islanders is less appealing.

I would expect the Islanders to come in ready tonight, maybe with some emotions starting to bleed into the game.

I’m not sure what to say about them more than that. Apparently our colleagues are trying to figure it all out as well:

The Isles have apparently played up to various opponents this year while the Leafs often play down. Talk about a match made in... Here are the lines. Umm... ish?

Lines

Stefen Rosner via Daily Faceoff

Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Casey Cizikas
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Anthony Beauvillier
Zach Parise - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Simon Holmstrom
Matt Martin - Aatu Raty - Ross Johnston

Parker Wotherspoon - Adam Pelech
Alexander Romanov - Scott Mayfield
Sebastian Aho - Noah Dobson**

Illya Sorokin*
Semyon Varlamov

* - Starter
** - May not play, Samuel Bolduc called up

Us

Thankfully, I was visiting family Saturday night and we did not have the game on. It is unusual, but it worked out in my favor. I don’t need to watch any subpar efforts. I still have a treasure chest full from the last 20 years.

I assume that other teams have stinkers throughout the year, but it never feels that way. I guess I don’t follow any other team with the level of dedication I have with the Leafs, but still, there have been some doozies.

More related to this game, John Tavares is making moves again. The captain has been hot, picking up five goals and 11 points during his seven goal point streak. Not bad. Matthews has four goals in his last five games. The top two lines should conceivably be rolling.

That all depends on the level of focus. Watching back to the game Saturday there seemed to be none. Or at least lots of times where there was none, and not so much when there was some.

The biggest note on the goalie topic is that Ilya Samsonov will get the third straight start for the Leafs.

Lines

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Calle Järnkrok - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - David Kämpf - Pierre Engvall
Zach Aston-Reese - Pontus Holmberg - Bobby McMann

Morgan Rielly - Timothy Liljegren
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Conor Timmins

Ilya Samsonov
Matt Murray

The Game

Toronto vs Islanders

Toronto Stat New York
Toronto Stat New York
68.1 - 4th Points % - Ranking 53.1 - 20th
3.362 - 9th Goals/Game - Ranking 2.938 - 24th
2.638 - 6th Goals Against/Game - Ranking 2.771 - 9th
24.3 - 10th Power Play% - Ranking 16.7 - 28th
78.8 - 17th Penalty Kill% - Ranking 83.1 - 5th
10.6 - 10th Team Sh% - Ranking 9.7 - 20th
0.908 - 9th Team Sv% - Ranking 0.911 - 6th
William Nylander, Auston Matthews - 24 Most Goals (NST) Brock Nelson - 17
Mitchell Marner - 56 Most Points (NST) Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal - 41
Michael Bunting - 54 Most PIM (NST) Scott Mayfield - 50
Morgan Rielly - 22.58 TOI Leader (NST) Noah Dobson - 21.07

The Islanders would do well to keep this game at even-strength. The Leafs would do well to play a complete game. I think the Islanders fans probably feel the same way about their own team. We’re past the mid-way mark, but really into the grind of the season.

It would be nice for the Leafs to take advantage of the five game homestand they have going into the All-Star break, but their play of late doesn’t leave me inspired. I look forward to looking less at the question marks around this team and instead feeling good about putting together my deadline wish list.

I’m fine with lulls in the year, they suck, but are really quite normal. How the team responds and what it does in response to adversity is much more interesting at this point. It would be nice to see a strong response to the Montreal fiasco and a five game streak culminating with a thrashing against Boston come February. Until it isn’t an option, that is my hope for the coming five pack of games.

Good luck out there today and have a lovely rest of the Monday.