HALL OF FAME NIGHT (PRE-GAME OPINIONS)
Tonight continues an ongoing tradition that the Leafs have been doing for quite some time. They will honor some of the newest inductees into the Hall of Fame (as seen above) and then host the Penguins in what should be a more exciting match then the previous one. I hope.
The Penguins were on a roll, previously winning 7 games in a row before having the streak snapped earlier this week against the Rangers. They outscored their opponents 33-8 during that hot run, and is enough to put fear into Leafs Nation in what may be a long night.
But fear not, the Leafs themselves are on a roll and not only take own a three game winning streak, but also have been playing some really impressive hockey of late, including a huge 6-1 win over the Bruins two days ago. While shots against continues to be a struggle for the Leafs, their offensive production and depth has been a reason for their recent success. While some of the wins came against cellar dwellers, recent wins have come against playoff contenders and Stanley Cup favorites, which is has been a confidence booster for the club.
As mentioned earlier, tonight's game continues a tradition where the Leafs will honor this years Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, which include Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Domenik Hasek, and Mike Modano. While honoring these four players will delay the start of the game, it is always special to give these four new legends a chance to be remembered, even if none of them played for the Leafs.
Percy, Frattin, Ashton (suspension), Lupul (Hand), Booth (Foot)
3 Keys to Victory
1) Slow down Penguins top 6. Pittsburgh has been once again on top of the hockey world and has been dominating the opposition. While it seems obvious that they may be running for winning the Conference, that does not mean that there is no way to beat them. The Penguins heavily rely on Crosby and Malkin, as well as their linemates, to carry the offense and provide the chances. Simply put, the Pens still don't have great depth at this time, so the Leafs need to do good defensively and shutting down the two best lines in the East will be a huge help.
2) Score first and early. One thing that the Leafs have not been great at in recent games is their tendency to start the game down early. While most times they have been able to rebound and end up on top, continuing this trend is not a recipe for success. The quick start against the Bruins was a step in the right direction, but now the Leafs need to continue that momentum and keep their opposition at bay if they want any chance of coming away with 2 points.
3) Preserve some energy for tomorrow. Even if this opponent is the Sabres, having some juice left in the tank will go a long way in accumulating two valuable points that could be the difference between the playoffs and a long summer. Remember, even though the Penguins can be a huge threat to kill a large amount of energy, the Leafs need to be on top of their game for the next 48 hours. That does not mean have no effort on one night and play like they are a playoff team the next, but they need to stay competitive in order for this weekend to be successful.
I expect these two teams to put on a good offensive show all night long. While there may not be a high number of goals, they will be highlight material. I also expect someone who has yet to score to finally fill the basket for the first time this season.