The Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Boston Bruins tonight in yet another installment of Biggest Game of the Year.
The Bruins are off to a great start that should not surprise anyone who regularly reads this column. The Bruins are actually a great reminder that advanced stats do predict the future, and that the Toronto Maple Leafs have nothing to worry about.
The Leafs are sixth in Corsi-For Percentage (puck possession), tenth in Shots-For Percentage, and 8th in Expected Goals Percentage.
The Leafs are currently 15th in the NHL standings, but a win tonight could make them sixth.
Like everything else about this team, their slow start was massively overblown. (All stats naturalstattrick.com).
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins
The Leafs have placed Nicholas Aube-Kubal on waivers.
Odds are he clears, and goes to the AHL and can help later in the year. The Leafs are stacking quite a few NHL caliber players in the AHL and their depth is impressive.
As for tonight, the Leafs will take on the first-place Bruins who are 10-1. That seams great, but anyone with that kind of record is getting incredibly lucky. The Bruins are good. They aren’t that good (no one is).
The Leafs are the better team overall, whatever the records currently say, and time will prove that conclusively.
Keefe seemed to strike gold earlier this week when he put Zach Aston Reese with David Kampf and Denis Malgin. That makes the third line Engvall, Jarnkrok and Simmonds, which I absolutely hate. With Holmberg I didn’t mind it, but Simmonds is done and sitting him for a rookie because of toughness is annoying and what the Leafs should know better than to do.
Nick Robertson needs to play and they need to trade Kerfoot, but that has been obvious forever. Now that it’s November some trades are possibly and I’m sure this will get taken care of very soon.
The most important thing about tonight’s game is that Timothy Liljegren is back. He is potentially the Leafs best defenseman overall, after being deployed last year in a way which made him their best defenseman statistically.
We interrupt this column for breaking news:
Good. Play the kids! Now back to the column:
He (we were talking about Liljegren) is starting up top with Morgan Rielly tonight, which seems crazy, but really, it’s only because the media lists any line with Rielly on it as the top pairing. This pairing will not see the ice against Boston’s top line, and will get out with Matthews and Marner as much as possible.
With the game at home, expect to see the Kampf line play more than the “third” line as the Leafs look to avoid playing their stars against the Bruins stars.
A five-man unit of Matthews, Marner, Bunting, Rielly and Liljegren, against secondary competition, starting their shifts as much as possible in the O-zone, and being just extremely over due for some shooting luck is going to do some damage tonight.
I think you’ll see Matthews and Marner with five points each.