Gameday Preview: Toronto vs. New York Islanders

Apparently even this little dude knows it's way too early to be really excited

I’ve tried. I’ve tried really hard to not let myself get all excited, it’s only four games, it doesn’t mean anything yet, there’s 78 games left. For the most part, I’ve kept a pretty levelhead about this whole “best-start-in-decades” thing, but every now and then, that little kid that watched Clark and Gilmour in the early ’90s comes out, like when Phil scored that overtime winner while I watched with a room full of Ranger fans, or when Howard Berger pointed out that the only other times the Leafs started 4-0, they appeared in the Cup Finals, albeit while games were still televised in black-and-white, if at all. There’s not much that can be said negatively about a 4-0-0 start, and for writers, especially those of us who’ve had to deal with the Leafs for any extended period of time, and while I know the Leafs aren’t perfect, I’m loving every bit of this start, and I’m gonna roll with it.

  • Clarke MacArthur will look to extend his current franchise record tonight, as he became the only Leaf to ever score goals in his first four games with his fifth of the year on Friday.
  • Not to be outdone, Phil Kessel is tied for the team lead with six points. Look for him to improve on that, as he’s got 7 goals and 12 points in 15 career games against the New York Islanders.
  • Dwayne Roloson, by all accounts, will get the start in net for the Isles. He’s 3-7 on his career against Toronto, but I think we all remember his 58-save win against the Leafs last year.
  • Brett Lebda will see his first NHL action with the Leafs tonight, getting the start over Carl Gunnarsson, who looks like he’s been added to the lengthy list of promising young defenders who hit an early sophomore slump. I still love Gunnarsson and hope he has a bright future with the Leafs, but having Lebda is a much better replacement than say, Garnet Exelby, who saw increased ice time when Luke Schenn got some press box time last year.
  • With Lebda in the lineup, the Leafs’ 3rd defensive pairing will make a combined $7.5 million this year. As bad as that sounds, I’m not complaining one bit about the Leafs’ D. Schenn is off to a great start playing with Tomas Kaberle on what is probably the most effective 2nd defensive pairing in the league at the moment, and as bad as everyone’s saying Gunnarsson has been, he’s still got an even rating, as does every other man on the Leafs’ blueline.
  • Player to watch for the Leafs’ defense: Josh Bailey is off to a great start with Kyle Okposo out of the lineup, with 3 goals and 7 points through 4 games.

Puck drops tonight at 7:00 pm, and the first period should be very interesting. Toronto’s done a great job of coming out flying in the early parts of games so far, but so have the Isles, even against teams like Washington. With two cagey vets in net and lots of youth and speed on the ice, this should end up being a very entertaining game. Wouldn’t be surprised to see overtime, actually.

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Tags: Brett Lebda Carl Gunnarsson Clarke MacArthur Dwayne Roloson Josh Bailey Kyle Okposo Luke Schenn Mike Komisarek New York Islanders Phil Kessel Tomas Kaberle Toronto Maple Leafs

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