Will The Toronto Maple Leafs End Offensive Slump Vs. The New York Rangers?

October 30th, 2010 No Comments

Having lost four out of their past five games the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to get back on track when they host the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre this evening.

Tonight’s tilt will mark the third time that these two teams have met this season, with both teams taking a game thus far.

While the Maple Leafs continue to get strong efforts from their goaltenders the forward group is quite another story.

Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur currently lead the team in goals scored with seven and six goals on the season respectively, but outside of those two, the entire team seems to be struggling to light the lamp.

Outside of MacArthur and Kessel, only two Maple Leafs have scored more than one goal on the season—Tim Brent (2) and Colton Orr (2).

As great as it is to have two of your fourth line players contributing in the goal scoring department, the head coach Ron Wilson and general manager Brian Burke have to be alarmed at the teams inability to score.

Fact is, the players that are supposed to be scoring are not getting the job done, especially on the top two lines.

Second line centre Mikhail Grabovski is yet to score, Part-time first line winger Nikolai Kulemin has just one goal, top line centre Tyler Bozak has just one goal (a power play marker) and Kris Versteeg (who has one goal on the season) has been plagued by tough luck, which recently led to his demotion to the second line.

As it stands right now the Maple Leafs are averaging just 2.56 goals per game—good enough for 26th overall. Last season the Maple Leafs averaged a total of (you guessed it) 2.56 goals per game—good enough for 25th overall (***tied with the Montreal Canadiens).

Needless to say, even with the elevated play from the Maple Leafs netminders, if the Buds do not find a way to score the team will likely find itself in the Eastern Conference Basement—a theme that is all too familiar for fans of the Blue and White.

Injured Forward Colby Armstrong (out 4-6 weeks with a finger injury) is expected to be out of the lineup this evening, which, while not a huge hit in the goal scoring department, will put additional pressure on the forward corps to perform this evening.

The bigger hit could be not having Kris Versteeg in the lineup. Versteeg, who is suffering from back pain, has shown a ton of heart throughout the season and, while it has yet to pay off for him in terms of scoring goals, that effort will be a huge loss for the Maple Leafs if Versteeg cannot go Saturday evening against the Rangers.

As much as the Maple Leafs have struggled five-on-five, their power play has also slipped. Overall the Leafs are scoring on just 12.8 percent of their power plays (23rd overall) and are a horrific one for 12 against the Rangers.

With all the adversity up front the Maple Leafs will have to dig deep to beat the Rangers—who should be motivated to take a few shots at Maple Leafs players in light of the fact that Colby Armstrong’s hit on Marian Gaborik led to the Rangers sniper being put on the shelf for up to four weeks.

So, how do the Maple Leafs get their offense going tonight?

For one, they will need to take lot’s of shots on Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Secondly, the team needs to be more aggressive on the forecheck and (without sounding like I am overstating the obvious here) the forwards need to start shooting the puck a lot more accurately!

The Maple Leafs have missed numerous open nets in the past few games—this just cannot happen if they want to win games.

What the Leafs need more than anything is to have one of their top-line players (not named Kessel or MacArthur) step up this evening. One of Bozak, Grabovski, Kulemin or Versteeg (if he plays) needs to bury a puck or two, it’s really that simple.

Either that or Brian Burke needs to consider bringing Nazem Kadri up from the Toronto Marlies…but that’s a whole other story!

Until next time,

Peace!

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