Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. St. Louis Blues: Preview and Prediction
Both teams enter tonight’s tilt with a 5-5-0 record in their past ten games and both teams have a number of question marks.
For Toronto, the goaltending situation has gone from good with James Reimer between the pipes to the unknown with the likes of Jonas “nobody is calling me the Monster anymore” Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens (who will get the start tonight) playing in relief of Reimer.
A potent offense covered up a number of flaws from the Maple Leafs, including a poor transition game and a penchant for getting caught flat footed—two areas of their game that have killed them in their first consecutive loses of the season to the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers, respectively, getting outscored 12-1 in the process.
After a hot start in which he earned player of the month honors for October, Phil Kessel has cooled off, posting just one goal in his past five games.
With just two goals and six points in his first 15 games, Nikolai Kulemin has failed to find the game that made him so successful last season when he notched a career high 30 goals and 57 points.
Meanwhile, Luke Schenn has had a disastrous season, consistently losing the physical battles and getting caught out of position far too often.
The Maple Leafs miss Schenn’s physical play which saw him lead all NHL defensemen with 251 hits last season.
Two other areas of concern for the Maple Leafs have been their paltry power play which currently ranks 21st overall at 14.8 percent and their abysmal penalty kill which currently ranks dead last amongst the NHL’s 30 teams with a 71.9 percent success rate.
Head coach Ron Wilson will need to have all hands on deck tonight as they will likely see a more physical/defensively responsible style of play from the Blues.
The Blues recently welcomed Ken Hitchcock to the organization to take over the head coaching duties. Hitchcock is well known for a defense-first style, which relies on taking advantage of his opponents mistakes—of which, the Maple Leafs have been making plenty lately.
Between the pipes, St. Louis has used both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Elliott has a 5-1-0 record to go along with a sparkling 1.72 goals against average and a brilliant .941 save percentage, while Halak has struggled, going 2-6-0 with a bloated 2.91 goals against average and hideous .879 save percentage.
Former Maple Leaf Alex Steen leads the Blues with six goals on the season, with David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Matt D’Agostini right behind him with four goals apiece.
St. Louis will have to contend with a number of injuries, including the loss of Andy MacDonald, David Perron, B.J. Crombeen, with Scott Nicol, who is questionable with an upper body injury.
James Reimer, Tim Connolly and Colby Armstrong are all expected to miss tonight’s game for the Maple Leafs.
Prediction: Despite a better effort from the Maple Leafs tonight I suspect they will have a hard time beating Halak or Elliott. Look for the Blues to come out hard in hopes of impressing their new head coach, taking a close 3-2 overtime/shootout for the win over the Maple Leafs.
Until next time,