Gameday Preview 3: Toronto at Pittsburgh

Hope he's well rested, he'll probably be seeing a bit of rubber tonight

When the season schedule was released this summer, not many would have guessed it would be the Leafs rolling into Pittsburgh off a weekend that saw them down both of their most bitter divisional rivals, but that’s exactly the case, as the new-look Buds have been just that, getting two solid efforts from Jean-Sebastien Giguere in net and scoring 8 goals. While I’m not going to make one of the “plan the parade” jokes that have already stormed across the blogosphere, the truth is, after such a depressing start to last season, seeing the Buds come out firing is a welcome sight to sore eyes in Leaf Nation.

One of the biggest matchups I’m looking forward to tonight will come between Toronto’s newly-formed checking line and whichever of the Crosby or Malkin lines they happen to be on the ice against. Based on the way they were used by Ron Wilson in the first two games, I’d say Tim Brent and co. will spend just about every shift they can out there against at least one of the most talented players in the world. If the Leafs want this line to be a night-in, night-out shutdown line, turning in a good performance tonight would go a long way to establishing that, both in the eyes of the coach and their teammates. Speaking of that 3rd line, Colby Armstrong will be making his 9th appearance against the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2001 NHL Draft since he was traded to Atlanta in 2008.

Pittsburgh has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, dropping their home- and new arena-opener to Philadelphia and rookie goalkeep Sergei Bobrovsky, before falling to the Canadiens 3-2 on Saturday. A 3-1 win over New Jersey on Monday afternoon should have them in slightly better spirits, but you should know that the Devils played only 15 skaters that game – 3 forward lines and 3 sets of defense. The Pens will most likely be out for blood tonight, so the Leafs had best not be riding too high on their laurels.

Jiggy will have to be on top of his game yet again, though his stats thus far are quite impressive, with a 1.51 GAA and just 3 goals allowed. The Penguins offer far more potent offense than either the Habs or the Sens, however, so tonight will be a good test of the vet in net, as well.

A couple of quick hits here:

  • Clarke MacArthur has been great so far for the Leafs, currently tied for the team lead with 3 points.
  • Knock on wood – the Leafs currently lead the league in PK percentage with a 100% success rate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that fall tonight, but don’t discount the Leafs’ efforts. With Brent, Freddie Sjostrom, Armstrong, Kris Versteeg and others all seeing time on the PK, this is an entirely different special teams unit than we were all forced to watch last year.
  • Keep knockin’ that lumber, because, at the moment, not a single Leaf holds a negative +/- rating. Versteeg and Mike Zigomanis are the only two who aren’t +1 or higher, which is a testament in and of itself to the variety of production the Leafs have gotten from all four lines.

Keep an eye out later today for the first installment of the Colton Orr Brain-bashing Gameday Warning, part of our efforts here at Editor-in-Leaf to reduce the number of injuries suffered at the right hand of the league’s most lethal enforcer. We held off on passing this warning on to the Ottawa Senators or Montreal Canadiens, because, well frankly, we enjoy seeing them getting brain-bashed without mercy.

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Tags: Clarke MacArthur Colby Armstrong Colton Orr Evgeni Malkin Fredrik Sjostrom Jean-Sebastien Giguere Kris Versteeg Mike Zigomanis Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby Tim Brent Toronto Maple Leafs

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