Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. Anaheim Ducks: Gameday

October 22nd, 2013 No Comments

1aleafAfter an impressive 6-1 start to the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in a two-game slide.

Despite their overall 6-3 record, the Maple Leafs have been outclassed more times than not this season. Toronto’s biggest issue thus far has been their inability to keep shots down, as opponents have averaged 35.6 shots against per game, ranking the Blue and White 28th overall.

In an effort to get their shots against down head coach Randy Carlye will be looking for his team to adopt a more puck-possession focused game, while also asking his troops to step up the pace.

Obviously, the Maple Leafs defense has struggled, but Carlyle has always demanded a team-game, which means the forwards will have to pick up the slack on the backend as well.  Carl Gunnarsson (15) and Rookie defenseman Morgan Rielly (14), lead the Blue and White in giveaways, while forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul lead the forwards with 12 giveaways each.

Toronto also needs to do a better job in the dot, where they are struggling to win faceoffs, ranking 26th overall with a success rate of 45.4 percent. Nazem Kadri leads the team with a 49.2% success rate, while both Tyler Bozak and Jay McClement (who both sit at 47.2%) have struggled after great success last season.

Given their struggles to keep shots down, one would think the Leafs would be 3-6, not 6-3 in the standings. Special teams (penalty kill is ranked 7th overall with a 85.3% success rate, power play is ranked second overall with a 27.8% success rate) have saved the Buds on occasion, as has the inspired play of Joffrey Lupul, who leads the team with six goals and 10 points.

Despite being hit with the loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the nod between the pipes tonight. Bernier stopped 37 of 40 shots against the Hawks and looked solid.

Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser (knee) and forwards  Nikolai Kulemin (ankle) and Fraser McLaren (hand) are all on injured reserve. Meanwhile, forward David Clarkson remains out serving his ninth game of his ten game suspension.

At the other end of the ice, the Ducks enter tonight’s tilt on a seven-game winning streak. Like the Maple Leafs, the Ducks are an offensive juggernaut, averaging 3.62 goals per game (third overall), compared to Toronto’s 3.22 goals per game (seventh overall).

Anaheim’s weak spot would be their special teams where the Ducks rank 22nd overall on the penalty kill (78.6%) and own the 28th ranked power play (9.4%). Of course, with Anaheim struggling to bulge the twine on the power play, that makes Anaheim one of the leagues most dangerous teams five-on-five, ranking second overall at 2.09 (5-5 F/A).

Corey Perry leads the Ducks with five goals and four assists, while linemate Ryan Getzlaf also has nine points (3 goals-6 assists). While Anaheim’s forwards have been firing on all-cylinders, the Ducks are yet to get a goal from a defenseman this season.

Veteran forward Teemu Selanne has three goals in his past three games, while youngster Jakob Silfverberg (who came over from the Ottawa Senators in the Bobby Ryan deal) has been excellent thus far, scoring four goals and registering two assists.

Between the pipes, Jonas Hiller has been unflappable, earning a 4-0 record, 2.01 goals against average and a 0.937 save percentage. As great as Hiller has been this season, it should be noted that Hiller is 0-3-0 with a 5.05 goals against average in three career games against Toronto.

Ducks’ forward Dustin Penner will not be available for tonight’s game with an upper body injury (head). Netminder Viktor Fasth is also questionable with a lower body injury. Defensemen Luca Sbisa (ankle) and Sheldon Souray (wrist) and forward Matt Beleskey (upper body) are also sidelined for the Ducks.

randy12233Quick Facts: Former Maple Leaf  defenseman Francois Beauchemin leads the Ducks with a plus-9 rating. Tonight marks the first time Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle will face his former team since being fired by Anaheim.

Fearless prediction: The over/under for shots against the Maple Leafs is 42 tonight. Should that happen it is hard to believe the Maple Leafs will shut down the leagues second-best offense.

Toronto has struggled to light the lamp, scoring just three goals in their past two games. Obviously, they will need their best players (Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri) to be firing on all cylinders tonight if they are to be successful against Anaheim.

When it rains, it pours— Toronto will continue to struggle against the Ducks big forwards, while Hiller will shut the door at the other end. Take the Ducks to beat the Maple Leafs, 4-2.

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