Carlyle Looking For Better Effort From Maple Leafs Troops
Coming off a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, and escaping with a 6-1 record to start the season, you’d think Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle would be satisfied with his teams effort. Anyone that watched the tilt between the Leafs and Wild knows the Maple Leafs were outplayed for the majority of the game— a fact that did not escape Carlyle.
Toronto was out shot 37-14 against the Wild, on Home ice no less. Poor defensive plays led to a number of giveaways and, without a superb performance from goaltender James Reimer, the game could have easily been a barn-burner with the Wild emerging victorious.
Needless to say, for the Maple Leafs to beat the Hurricanes, they will have to put in a better overall effort, which includes cleaning up the defense and getting a more concerted effort from their forwards as well, who have been guilty of being lazy on the back check.
Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson leads the team with 13 giveaways, while rookie Morgan Rielly sits a close second with 12. Cody Franson rounds out the top three offending defensemen with 10 of his own. Forwards Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri lead all forwards with 12 and 10 giveaways, respectively.
Despite a plus-2 rating, Defenseman Paul Ranger has looked shaky at times, and has a penchant for taking ill-timed penalties. If Ranger is to stay with the big club he too will need to clean up his game considerably.
David Clarkson (suspension), defenseman Mark Fraser (lower-body injury) and forward Nikolai Kulemin (ankle injury) will remain out for the Maple Leafs. While Clarkson is yet to play this season, the loss of Kulemin and Fraser (who are both defense-first players) is having a negative effect on the team.
Forward James van Riemsdyk, is also out with a lower back injury. The loss of JVR (who is tied for the team lead for goals scored with five) is a huge blow for the Maple Leafs and will likely mean some line juggling for Carlyle tonight.
Despite a mediocre 2-2-3 record, the Hurricanes will be a tough team to beat. The two sides split a pair of games last season.
Three former Maple Leafs (Mike Komisarek, Jiri Tlusty, Jay Harrison) will be making their return to Toronto.
After a great 2012-13 season in which he scored a career-high 23 goals and 38 points through 48 games with the Hurricanes, Tlusty has struggled to begin the season, posting zero points and a minus-3 rating through seven games. Komisarek has seen just one game thus far, while Harrison has been solid, posting three points and a plus-3 rating thus far.
Sniper Jeff Skinner leads the Hurricanes with seven points (2 goals, five assists), while forward Nathan Gerbe leads the team with three goals. Despite four points through his first seven games, forward Eric Staal is an alarming minus-6 on the season, while brother Jordan has just one assist and a minus-1 rating thus far.
Still looking for his first win on the season, Canes’ goaltender Cam Ward always seems to play tough against the Maple Leafs. Look for him to continue that trend this evening.
Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin (lower body), defenseman Tim Gleason (concussion), forward Elias Lindholm (upper body) and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (broken heel; out for the season) are all out for the Hurricanes tonight.
The Hurricanes abysmal power play (12.5%) and paltry penalty kill (83.3%) should play to the Maple Leafs’ advantage, giving them the edge they need to sneak by the Hurricanes. Toronto owns the leagues second best power play at 33.3% and the third ranked penalty kill, which is humming along at 88.9%.
Fearless prediction: Despite good goaltending and some firepower up front, the Hurricanes should be no match for the Maple Leafs’ forward depth and stellar goaltending. If those factors are not enough to beat the Hurricanes, look for Toronto to take advantage of their power play opportunities, while continuing to shut the door on the penalty kill. Take the Maple Leafs, 4-2.