SLOW DOWN SID (PRE-GAME OPINIONS)
After a tough loss on Wednesday, the Leafs have a chance to redeem themselves tonight. But their is one little problem: Sid the Kid and the Penguins are their opponent and they looked pretty good in their first game of the season. Especially Corsby who had 3 points. We know how difficult the Pens are; the question is, are the Leafs ready for challenging this offensive juggernaut?
One day after their season opener, the Leafs claimed forward Richard Panik off of waivers; in which he was immediately assigned to the fourth line with Holland and Winnik, knocking off Frattin. The rest of the team had two days of workout, with the intention of preparing for the Pens arrival.
Although he may be safe in the NHL, Panik knows that consistency is the reason he was waived by the Lightning. If he is looking to improve his game, tonight is a good place to start.
As for the rest of the team, can they play solid defensive hockey against a team that last season had the best powerplay in the league, and with Crosby and Malkin leading the way?
It looks as though Franson will make his regular season debut tonight, potentially knocking off Percy. Booth is still on injury reserve.
Ashton, Frattin, Percy, Booth (injured)
3 Keys to Victory
1) Stop the Pens powerful offense, especially Crosby. As was normal in these types of match-ups, the main questions the media ask the Leaf players are "What are you going to do defending Crosby?" and "What's the secret to slowing down the Pens offense?" As in the past, players like Phaneuf, Polak, Clarkson, and Komarov among others need to be ready to play sound defensive hockey. Phaneuf even said that "If you give Crosby time, you are going to pay for it. By giving him less time to make a play, that will get him off his game and give you a better chance to turn it over." And this doesn't just apply to Crosby, every Penguins forward and half of their defense are bound to make a play offensively. The Leafs need to challenge that and counter attack.
2) The top line needs to work harder and contribute more. In the last game, the same problems from the previous season emerged: the top line played too long and got exhausted, costing the Leafs valuable opportunities for the other three lines to contribute. Yes, it was only one game, but this cannot be repeated, especially against the Penguins. Kessel, Bozak, and JVR know that they need to work extra hard tonight to provide offense and not let the team down. Considering that players can't struggle forever, I think they will improve.
3) Remember that their is another game tomorrow and conserve some energy. While their next opponent, the Rangers, are playing tonight as well (in fact, every team is playing tonight), the Leafs cannot afford to waste too much energy in tonight's game. Tomorrow's opponent will be just as difficult to beat and may take much out of the Leafs. As long as the Leafs conserve some of their energy for the next game and be able to take on the Penguins, they should be fine.
Considering how good the two teams can be, expect an offensive showing tonight. The score may be 5-4 by the end of the night, and Kessel will register his first point of the season as well. The TOI will be more evened out then it was before.