Tonight, the Leafs are Florida bound. This will be the fourth and final game between these two teams. Roster wise, you can argue there isn’t much distinction between the quality of the two teams and yet they find themselves in drastically different situations.
The Panthers are looking for a chance to stay in the driver seat of the Southeast Division while our boys are just… playing out the year. The playoffs are still a mathematical possibility but we can all agree that most of us are already looking at that high pick. As for the players, it’s a battle for jobs under the new coach and a chance to make a fresh start (here’s looking at you Mike Komisarek).
The challenge lies in scoring goals. The Buds have not scored in back to back games and the Panthers conceded only 12 goals in their last games. If you donâ€™t count their loss against the Flyers (0-5) you come with a truly impressive number of only 7 goals against in 4 out of the 5 games played.
The Panthers are looking to sweep the season series, having outscored Toronto by a 15-7 margin in winning the first three head-to-head matchups.
KEY POINT – GOALTENDING
Collecting 19 wins so far (battling injuries in the process) with a a SP of .920, Jose Theodore is having a comeback season with the Panthers. Heâ€™s the only Panther goalie so far this season to get a start against the Leafs. In those 3 games, Theodore has collected 3 wins with a 2.33 GAA and a sparkling .931 save percentage.
On the flip side, no Leafs goalie facing the Cats has had a save percentage over .880 in those three meetings, something that would surely have to improve if the Leafs want any chance of a win tonight.
The Leafs will be missing Joffrey Lupul, who is most probably out for the rest of the regular season. Florida is battling a lot of injuries and will most likely be missing wingers Scottie Upshall, Matt Bradley, Jack Skille and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.
Former (short lived) Leaf Kris Versteeg will also most likely miss the game because of a lower body injury thatâ€™s been plaguing him for some time now.
– the improving play of Erik Gudbranson
– continued growth of Carter Ashton?
– defensive coverage, net presence by the Leafs
– can the Leafs generate more scoringÂ opportunitiesÂ off the cycle?