BROKEN JACKETS (PRE-GAME OPINIONS)
It's Halloween, and their is a Leaf game on tonight (so strange). In what is a rare staple in Leaf Land, the Buds will take on the Blue Jackets who are currently missing 7 key members. Outside of that, Columbus should not be taken lightly as the Jackets have outscored the Leafs 13-3 in the previous match ups. The last time the Leafs beat Columbus was in 2011, when the above picture was taken.
Since a record breaking evening against the Sabres, the Leafs have been taking time off to prepare for this weekends match ups. After allowing only 10 shots against, the Leafs are prepared to take on the storm as Columbus, and tomorrow's opponent, the Blackhawks, will be a more tough opponent and are more dangerous than ever.
Speaking of Columbus, the injury bug has hit them hard early on this season. Heading into tonight's game, the Blue Jackets are missing 7 key members of their lineup due to injury, including Vezina winning goaltender Bobrovsky. That should be a good advantage for the Leafs, right? Well, not exactly. See, Columbus had the Leafs number last year (outscoring them 13-3 in three games). And although they have struggled as of late (3 game losing streak) no team in any state should be taken lightly.
The Leafs did a good job in playing an aggressive defensive hockey against the Sabres, so they need to keep it up again tonight. We've seen situations like this before where the Leafs head into a game believing it will be easy, and they come up empty handed. Hopefully that is not the case tonight.
By the way, David Booth's return will not be for at least two more weeks, as he did not feel himself when practicing yesterday. When he returns, do the Leafs trade away Ashton, who has yet to play a game this season?
Ashton, Percy, Kozun (injured), Booth (injured)
3 Keys to Victory
1) Use dilemma from previous game again. As mentioned, the Leafs played one heck of a game on Tuesday. They outworked, outshot, outplayed, and outscored their opponent to a convincing 4-0 win. Yes, this was against the Sabres, but that type of hockey is the one that will make the Leafs successful. I was marveled by how dominant they were, and hope is that they don't forget what worked. With the same lines intact, expect to see more improvement.
2) Columbus is still dangerous, despite slump. Regardless of what happens, the Leafs need to remember the Columbus had their number and can easily beat them. Heck, they were one of the teams that potentially robbed the Leafs of a playoff spot. That being said, despite the struggles and absence of key players, the Blue Jackets will still give the Leafs a tough time if the Buds do not come prepared to battle. The one thing that will help the Leafs is that they match Columbus's energy with their speed and continue to attack.
3) Remember, Chicago is here tomorrow. One thing that could harm the Leafs is that they use up all of their energy tonight and play tomorrow's game flat. It would not be a good idea as Chicago is their opponent, and they are still a force to be reckoned with. Despite being one goal away from the Finals last playoffs, the Blackhawks will still prove a worthy opponent to the Leafs who typically struggle against them. Playing a good game while conserving some energy tonight will go a long way for tomorrow's match up.
I sense that a rough and tumble game will commence between these two teams (A line brawl will occur at some point). The score will be relatively low, with one goal being a crazy bounce, including a power-play goal by the Leafs. It may even end up in a shootout.