Maple Leafs Take On Flyers In Eastern Conference Showdown
As good as the Toronto Maple Leafs have been over their past ten games (6-3-1), Thursday night’s tilt against the Flyers will be used as a measuring stick for the Buds. Should the Maple Leafs lose, it will reinforce what many pundits are thinking—that the Maple Leafs are a good team, but not capable of beating the elite teams, at least not consistently.
The Maple Leafs currently sit seventh overall in the Eastern Conference standings. With the Boston Bruins occupying the second seed in the East that means the Buds would play the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs should the season end today.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the Blue and White’s chances against the Bruins in a seven game series. Sure, when it comes to the playoffs, anything can happen, but you’d be hard-pressed to get anyone to bet their house on the Maple Leafs emerging victorious in a seven game series with the Bruins.
Toronto has demonstrated an inability to compete with the more physical teams in the NHL. With the likes of Scott Hartnell, Jody Shelly, Wayne Simmonds and Maxime Talbot in the Flyers lineup, look for the Maple Leafs to get a steady diet of hits from the Flyers which will test the Blue and White’s moxy.
It will be interesting to see if Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf looks to extract a measure of revenge on Hartnell who was heard yelling “hey Phaneuf, suck it” after Hartnell scored a goal in the All-Star game.
There was not a lot of press about this incident, but something tells me Phaneuf won’t soon forget this incident, whether Phaneuf seeks a little retribution remains to be seen.
The Maple Leafs met the Flyers earlier this season, losing 4-2 in Philadelphia. Tonight’s tilt will also be in Philadelphia where the Flyers have posted a 12-8-5 record on the season, compared to a 18-8-2 record on the road.
Both Jaromir Jagr and Hartnell had two goals apiece in the Maple Leafs 4-2 loss to the Flyers. It is imperative that the Buds find a way to contain both of these players, as well as star forward Claude Giroux, who is second overall in the scoring race with 60 points on the season.
Every effort was made to shore up the Flyers goaltending this off-season with the Flyers bringing in veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov via free agency. Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky have been good, but there are still doubts that either one is capable of leading the Orange and Black to a Stanley Cup victory.
Despite Bobovsky getting the nod in the Flyers first meeting with the Maple Leafs this season, look for Bryzgalov to get the nod tonight as he has been very good of late, allowing just one goal or less in five of his past seven starts.
The Maple Leafs will look to get back on track after a tough 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night where the Maple Leafs lacked effort, managing only 18 shots against the Jets.
After sitting out two games in a row in which James Reimer registered back-to-back shutouts, Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson played well against the Jets, but there is every indication that Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson will be inclined to start Reimer tonight.
A win against the Flyers would go a long way in legitimizing the Leafs as a true contender, let’s hope they can pull off the win and silence the critics.
Until next time,