For the start of a 2013-14 season that has had no shortage of storylines, tonight’s match between the Oilers and Maple Leafs is certainly no different. From all the young talent rolling in from Oil City to the return of former Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins, the game will be a can’t-miss event for the crazed Maple Leaf fan base.
On the Maple Leafs side of the ice, the story will be two-fold: “Can they continue to win games while being badly outplayed in terms of possession?”, and “Will Jonathan Bernier continue to be a rock in the Leafs crease?” The second is tougher to answer, as it is hard to predict what a young player will mold into while increasing his workload, but the first needs to be addressed soon if the Leafs hope to qualify for another playoff berth.
The win/loss column does not speak to the 23rd-best Corsi (shot attempt differential) in the NHL, but the team is also no longer passing the eye test. They looked outmatched for more than half the game in Nashville, and if not for playing a team that is inept at hitting the net, the game would (and likely should) have been a loss. The good news comes from the fact that the season is only five games old, so there’s lots of time for improvement.
Nevertheless, Toronto will face a young team of thoroughbreds that are anxious to win tonight. The Oilers have goaltending issues (starter Devan Dubnyk carries an .847 save percentage into tonight’s game), and have not had much more success under Eakins to this point than they did under Ralph Krueger or Tom Renney. The team’s defense remains a project, as most of the wealth acquired through the draft has been on the offensive side.
Tonight’s projected lines (thanks to mapleleafs.com):
– Forwards –
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – David Broll
Josh Leivo – Dave Bolland – Mason Raymond
Colton Orr – Jay McClement – Carter Ashton
– Defense –
Dion Phaneuf – Carl Gunnarsson
Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Paul Ranger
– Goaltenders –
More to come this afternoon. Thanks as always for getting your Leaf news from editorinleaf.com.