Morning Mashup: The Significance of the Next Game


Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

There is no understating the importance of tonight’s game at all.  With a win tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be in a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points.  Riding a three game winning streak, the Leafs have gone from looking like pretenders to the real deal in the East, giving them a possible seven-point cushion on ninth place if they can pull off a victory.  It’s just a shame that they have to go up against the defending Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, who look to be in post season form.  The Beantowners will head into Toronto just one point behind the Buds and two games removed from a tenth straight win.

In the past 12 games, no team has been better than the Boston Bruins.  They have taken 23 of a possible 24 points, and through their unbeatable play they have erased a 3 – 7 – 0 start that saw the team go from Cup Champion to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.  They sit a mere half game back of the Toronto Maple Leafs and have absolutely manhandled the Blue and White by a combined score of 13 – 2 in two games earlier in the season.

To make matters worse, there’s no secret weapon for the Leafs in net, as both ‘tenders have featured against Boston and neither has acquitted himself particularly well.  Gustavsson has given up eight goals in his two appearances, while Scrivens allowed five on 14 shots in less than half the time on ice the Monster saw.

Its not entirely doom and gloom in Leaf land.  This is not the same club that was relying on unused or untested goaltending as before.  Jonas Gustavsson comes into tonight’s game with four straight wins, having given up only seven goals in that span.  When he first played in Boston on October 20th, it was his first real game in almost ten months, when he was shelled 7 – 0 by the New York Rangers.

Joffrey Lupul has led the club through the month of November with 18 points and heads into tonight’s game on six-game point streak.  He’s outscored his pal Phil Kessel, and is a good bet to take Kessel’s first Star for the month honours.

Since his return six games ago, Tim Connolly has put up eight points and has looked better.  He’s helped ignite Clarke MacArthur since coming back from injury, and has quietly helped the slumping Nikolai Kulemin find the score sheet with four points since being put on Connolly’s wing.

Looking ahead to tonight’s keys to the game, it will be key for the Leafs third ranked (22.8%) power play to continue its successful onslaught.  With a match up against such a heated rival, the Leafs should have ample time with the man advantage.  On the flip side, the recently decent penalty kill will have to prove the strength of the unit against a creative and deadly Boston power play.

It would also be beneficial for the Leafs to help themselves out with a good start.  Far too often, the Leafs have allowed the opposition to set the pace of the game (being scored on first in three of the last four games played).  Unlike their previous competition, the Bruins won’t just seek to hold a lead.  As the previous games’ history has showed, the Bruins are more than able to smell blood in the water, and more than willing to go for the kill when they do.

Tonight’s game has all the potential to be a crucible for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  To be the best you have to beat the best, or so they say, and the Bruins have looked just that over the last month.  The Leafs can stem their meteoric rise to the top of the Conference, gain ground in their division, and prove to even the last of the nay-sayers (Seguin fans) that this year’s Leafs are different.  This year’s Leafs are for real.

And then they’ll have to do it all again Saturday.

Thanks for reading, and please enjoy the return of the links:

Be sure to check out Alec’s excellent recap of the week that was and the week that will be for the Toronto Marlies.

Human Stat book Steven Burtch on the curiously good shot of Clarke MacArthur.

The Toronto Sun on the roster changes in the Leafs line up, and how they’ll be a better club than the one that was shelled by Boston twice so far this season.

In case you missed it, Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrated their 3rd anniversary together yesterday.

I guess Ron Wilson will start letting people talk to James Reimer again.  In other news, he’s likely to back-up Gustavsson in Boston on Saturday.

Vintage Leaf Memories brings up the Kessel/Seguin+ trade.  Seriously, it’s going to become a part of Toronto mythos 300 years down the road.

With the CBA to be renegotiated, Down Goes Brown has provided a list of possible hot topics when the NHL and the NHLPA head into talks.