A strong start from Tim Brent was probably the only thing keeping him on the club, as a strong preseason and two early goals cemented his place as the 3rd line center. Still, if you told Ron Wilson his third leading goal scorer seven games into the season would be the career AHL player, he would, well, probably just roll his eyes and make that depressed look he had on his face from about October to February last year. Regardless of Ron Wilson’s reaction, the fact that no one but Brent, Phil Kessel and SuperMac are the only Leafs with more than one goal to their name is a big reason Toronto dropped all three games last week.
After scoring 16 goals in their first four games, the Leafs have netted just 4 in the last three, all but one of them off the sticks of MacArthur and Kessel. MacArthur also assisted on the Leafs’ lone goal from Colby Armstrong against the Rangers on Thursday. I’m not jumping into full-on Leaf fan panic just yet, but the Leafs’ offense needs to be better. Kris Versteeg has had some golden chances in the past few games, most of them at times in games when the Leafs could really have used a goal, but remains left with just one goal and two points on the year. Tyler Bozak spent most of the 3rd period on Thursday with his ass glued to the pine, and will definitely need to step up his game if he truly wants to be considered a first-line center.
Today’s game against the Florida Panthers has to be a must-win for the Leafs, if only for the reason that they can’t afford to be giving up points to teams like Florida if they want to make the playoffs. Still, it won’t be a walk in the park by any means, as the Panthers have allowed the fewest goals in the league behind the stellar goaltending of Tomas Vokoun. They’ve also won three of their last four games, beating the Northwest Division leading Calgary Flames, the Southeast Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning and the upstart New York Islanders.
I’d expect some line juggling from Ron Wilson tonight, as he’s shown he’s not afraid to do it in the middle of the last few games, but as much as the Leafs have struggled to score in the past few games, their biggest problem has been the costly defensive giveaways. Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle both had turnovers that led directly to goals in Philadelphia the other night, and veteran defensemen can’t be coughing the puck up like that on a playoff team.
Here’s the lineups for tonight, per