Maple Leafs Need To Be Wary Of Red Wings

October 18th, 2017 No Comments

The Maple Leafs will be in tough against the Red Wings tonight.

Heading into the 2017-18 NHL season, few, if any, of the “experts” gave the Detroit Red Wings a chance at earning a playoff spot. Too old, too slow, too battle tested and in a rebuild mode were all used to describe the Red Wings. So, how are those accolades holding up thus far? To say that the Red Wings are the biggest early season surprise might be pushing it, but it’s not far from the truth. Detroit currently owns a 4-2 record with wins over the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes and Las Vegas Golden Knights, not an overly impressive list of victories, but four wins nonetheless.

Leading the way for the Red Wings has been the usual suspects with a few new faces mixed in. Henrik Zetterberg (3 G, 4A, 7P) has been the Red Wings most consistent forward, veteran defensemen Mike Green (1G, 8A, 9P ) leads the team in points (9) and netminder Jimmy Howard has been excellent most nights, posting a tidy .942 save percentage (7th best in the NHL) and an impressive 1.97 goals against average (9th best in the NHL).

Two youngsters have also been contributing to the Red Wings decent start at an impressive level with Anthony Mantha (23) tied for the team lead in goals scored with three, while Dylan Larkin (21) looks to be putting his sophomore curse behind him with six points (1G, 5A) through six games played.

A new arena has helped to energize the Red Wings players and fans, but it has been their improved play and effort that has the NHL taking notice.

Now, to be fair, it is very early in the NHL season and I’m pretty confident most of us are still predicting that the Red Wings will struggle to make the playoffs. That said, Detroit has been playing good hockey thus far and with the Maple Leafs coming off a spirited game against the Washington Capitals last night, the potential for a letdown is very real for Toronto.

So, how can the Maple Leafs avoid taking the Red Wings too lightly?

First and foremost, heading into the match against the Capitals Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock sent a strong message to everyone on the roster when he demoted Mitch Marner to the fourth line in favor of Connor Brown. While the move was widely seen as more of a promotion for the hard working Brown, as opposed to a punishment for Marner, the move will not be lost on players that are holding onto their roster spot by the skin of their teeth. Expect a good effort from everyone in the lineup.

Coming off a shutout effort against the Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen will get the night off in favor of backup Curtis McElhinney who will get his first start of the season. McElhinney put together decent numbers last season, earning a 10-6-7 record while posting a 2.85 GAA and a decent .914 SV% and looked good in the preseason.

The Maple Leafs will look to use their speed and size against the Red Wings defense, which is not as mobile or skilled as it once was. Austin Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk all have the ability to exploit Detroit’s defense and should see their fair share of the score sheet tonight.

Special teams could also play a role as the Maple Leafs second ranked power play (28.6%, eight goals on 28 opportunities) will face off against the Red Wings fifth ranked penalty kill (89.3%, three goals against on 28 SH opportunities). Which side will cave? Detroit has struggled to score on the power play ranked 19th overall (16.7%, four goals on 24 opportunities) while the Maple Leafs penalty kill has been adequate (81.5%, giving up 5 goals on 27 shorthanded opportunities).

Good teams find a way to get results on back-to-back nights. Hopefully the Maple Leafs continue to prove they are, in fact, a good team.

 

Prediction: 4-3 Maple Leafs

 

 

 

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