AFTER THE FALLOUT (PRE-GAME OPINIONS)
The Leafs have not played for a number of days now. But the reason for that was understandable, as of the tragic shooting in Ottawa. Fortunately, the Leafs are back and ready to return to action, and their opponent is a familiar foe: the Bruins. They are not as tough as in the past, but still a challenging match-up for the Buds.
The Bruins have had a slow start to their season, which is strange considering that this is almost the same team that won the cup 3 years ago. However, they are going to be without captain Chara who is out with a knee injury for the next month and a half.
As for the Leafs, they have not played since Tuesday as Wednesday's game against the Sens was postponed following the tragic shooting on Parliament Hill (The game has since be rescheduled to November 9). In their last game, they had a really strong effort against a surging Islanders team, with a 5 goal outburst. Although the Leafs have a record of 3-3-2, they are playing better hockey than they did one season ago.
Since the Bruins are missing Chara, the Leafs have a good chance to take advantage of a slightly weak defensive corp (meaning, that it mostly young players establishing themselves). Considering how valuable the tallest man in the NHL is to tomorrow's opponent, they will still be a tough test for the Leafs. So, although the Leafs have a chance to get a win, they should not look at this team lightly (see 7-0 loss in 2011). Nonetheless, expect an exciting game from both sides.
Ashton, Frattin, Kozun (injured), Booth (injured)
3 Keys to Victory
1) Take advantage of a Chara-less Bruins. It's not everyday that the Bruins are without their captain in the lineup, but this game will be one of them. While the Leafs still have to deal with the strong offense and Rask, the defense might be slightly easier than before since some of the players are young guns and rookies (one will be playing in his first NHL game). With this in mind, the Leafs need to try and get more shots on net so that there is more chances to score. Anything that gives the Bruins an easy chance will come back to haunt the Leafs.
2) Someone other than Kessel must score. Sure, Kessel is the Leafs best player and he has been on of the reasons why they have some wins early on, but they have yet to win a game when Kessel does not find the back of the twine. They have been able to do so in the past, so it is only a matter of time before that happens. But, the earlier they are able to figure this out, the better their season will be in the long run. Considering who else is on this team (Kadri, Lupul, Bozak, Clarkie, Rielly, and more), it is only a matter of time. But the time may be now.
3) The power-play needs to shoot more. I'm glad that the Leafs have a better penalty kill, but the power-play has been struggling early on. With the power-play being ranked 18th overall as of today, there is more work that can be done. The Leafs, when on the man advantage, seem to only pass the puck and not want to shoot. Especially considering that the Leafs have not scored a power-play goal in 4 games now, the time to improve could not come at a better time. Power-play goals are just as important as 5-on-5 goals.
I have a sense that this game is going to be close, but fun to watch (considering the playoff series a few years ago). Expect a 3-2 finish and Leaf player to record two points in the game. The power-play will also break through.