Attack of the Weber (Pre-Game Opinions)
Clear the track, here comes Weber's boomer! Unfortunately for the Leafs, he is not the only thing to be afraid of from this Predators team. Nashville currently is among the top teams in the West and show no signs of slowing down. Considering the last few Leaf games, oh no!
The Predators have a healthy Rinne, new offensive pressure from Neal, and Weber's shot. These and a few others not mentioned are what makes the Predators suddenly complete for the Central Division title in just one season. They should not be taken lightly at all.
As for the Leafs, they are coming off a devastating loss to a team that seems to be heading towards McDavid talks. While they have improved their position in the standing, others are catching up and taking spots away and keeping the Leafs away from the playoff picture for now. Although it is still early, losses like those could come back to haunt the Leafs towards the end if they can't get their feet off the ground quickly.
And the road doesn't get any easier in terms of their opponents. Following this game, the Leafs will face the Lighting, Red Wings, Penguins, and Capitals within the next two weeks. Those will be tough customers for the Leafs, so getting out of this recent slump is priority number one if they want to gain ground.
Fortunately for the Leafs, help is along the way. Earlier today, their was an official announcement from Carlyle that both Booth and Lupul will be returning to the lineup within a week. It is obvious how important Lupul is to the Leafs, but having Booth finally step into the lineup after a preseason injury delayed the debut will be a huge boost to the depth. It will also give the young guns like Carrick and Leivo a break and a chance to play a bigger role across town (Marlies).
Ashton, Percy, Carrick, Kozun (injured), Booth (injured), Lupul (injured)
3 Keys to Victory
1) Get quality shots on Rinne. If there is one player in the Nashville back-end that gets the most work and pressure is their star goaltender. While Rinne is not the absolute best in the league, he can play like he is competing for a Vezina on many nights. However, he is human so it is entierly possible to beat him. Like Halak and Rask in past games, the only way to get a really good chance of getting a goal past Rinne is just shooting the puck a ton. No more, no less. The Leafs have done twice before, it is entirely possible to do it again.
2) Special teams must be effective. Both the power-play and penalty kill need to be on top of their game if the Leafs want any chance of staying in the game. The last few games have shown a increasingly problem when the Leafs have the man advantage: they pass more than they shoot. For a team that usually has a really strong power-play, that is unacceptable and ridiculous that the problem still exists. Take Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington's lead and just shoot the damn thing already. You never know what's going to happen.
3) Goaltending has to be supreme. Reimer or Bernier, whomever is going to man the pipes against the Predators has to be ready to weather the storm. As previously mentioned, the Predators has a high number of dangerous players offensively and can really put even the most skilled defensive team at bay. Weber's slapshot is one, the balanced attack is another. Basically, the Leafs need to have amazing goaltending to back up the defense or else it will be another long evening in Hogtown.
I expect a really tight game all around. While both teams will score goals, it will need extra time or possibly a shootout to settle the draw. I also think that Robidas may finally get his first goal of the season and that a young player will step up big for their respective club.