Game Preview #66 - Leafs vs Bruins
With the Toronto Maple Leafs (30-28-7) sitting five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the 8th and final playoff position - albeit the Leafs have two games in hand - tonight's matchup against the Boston Bruins (38-23-3) is a must win game for the blue and white. New coach Randy Carlyle had a successful debut against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, but how the Leafs fare against the Bruins tonight will be more of an indicator as to how much of an impact Carlyle has on the squad. The Bruins have gone 4-0-0 against Toronto this season outscoring their division rival 23-6 in those contests. The Leafs were no match for the polished and well-oiled machine that was the Bruins earlier this season, so it will be interesting to see how they compete tonight.
The Leafs may be facing the Bruins at the perfect time as Boston enters tonight losers of four of their past six including back to back losses to the New York Islanders and New York Rangers this past weekend. On the other hand a frustrated and reeling Bruins team may be relishing the chance to face a Leafs team they've handled so easily this season. Tim Thomas will get the start in net tonight and will most likely carry the load the rest of the way as backup Tuukka Rask suffered a severe injury against the Islanders Saturday ending his season prematurely. Boston will also be without forwards Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley as they're dealing with injuries.
Carlyle likes to stress defensive positioning and physical toughness in front of your own net. The Leafs seem to have the blueliners to get this job done in Mike Komisarek, Luke Schenn and Dion Phaneuf. Carlyle's style will face a big test right off the bat tonight as the Bruins storm the opposing goalie at will and try to scare the puck into the net. How the Leafs defense contain the Bruins forwards tonight will go a long way to determining the final result. Offensively the Leafs are going to need Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul to somehow find a way to penetrate the defensive fortress that is Zdeno Chara. The Bruins captain - and reigning Norris trophy winner - has easily nullified the Leafs' dynamic duo this season. Toronto had some success against the Bruins last season when they received offensive support from the Mikhail Grabovski line. If Grabo and CO. can get it going tonight against the Bruins it will go a long way in helping the Kessel line.
Jonas Gustavsson will start his third straight game for the Leafs following a 21 save confidence building win against the Canadiens on Saturday. Gustavsson is 0-2-0 against the Bruins this season having allowed 11 goals in those two starts. Needless to say the Leafs will need a big performance from Jonas if they are going to get this playoff push off on the right track.
Enforcer Jay Rosehill was quickly recalled by the Leafs once Carlyle was announced as the new bench boss. Look for Rosehill to play few minutes, but create chaos when out there. Rosehill had a memorable bout with Milan Lucic last season and will earn his money tonight if he can goad the Bruins first line winger into a re-match.
Frattin - Grabovski - MacArthur
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Armstrong - Steckel - Kulemin
Rosehill - Lombardi - Connolly
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Schenn
Liles - Komisarek
Lucic - Krejci - Seguin
Marchand - Bergeron - Rolston
Pouiliot - Kelly - Caron
MacDermin - Campbell - Thornton
Chara - Boychuk
Seidenberg - McQuaid
Zanon - Corvo
Players to Watch
Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski - Having signed a five year $27.5 million dollar contract earlier in the day, look for the Belarusian to try and show he's worth it tonight against the Bruins. Had two goals on Saturday to bust out of a 14 game goalless drought and has quickly become Carlyle's go to guy offensively.
Bruins: Milan Lucic - With 5 goals and 10 points versus the Leafs this season he has obviously been a question the Leafs have not had an answer for so far this year. What will Carlyle do to limit the Bruin power forward tonight?
Game Time: 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV- Sportsnet Ontario. Radio - AM640.