Game Day Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers. I Don’t Believe In Magic


Jersey Fail? From last season. Image Property of Panther Parkway



GAME DAY SONG: Counting On A Miracle

The Florida Panthers host the Toronto Maple Leafs this evening for the fourth and final game of what has been a dismal homestand so far.  Desperately needing a win, the Panthers will need to be firing on all cylinders tonight against a Leafs team that has won seven of their past 10 games, and is 6-2-0 on the road.  A win tonight by Toronto ties them with their best road start since 1940-1941 when they went 7-2-0. Despite losing goaltender James Reimer to a lower body injury last week, backup Ben Scrivens is coming off a 34 save shutout performance against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. It was the first career shutout for Scrivens.  The Leafs are hoping performances similar to that continue, as the win was their fifth in their past six games following a lackluster outing in Carolina on Thursday.  Coach Randy Carlyle was displeased with the way his team played in that one:

Well, we got outworked in Raleigh,” Carlyle said. “We stated that and put that to our players that our commitment to the work ethic had to be to the higher level than it was in the last game.

One of the big stories for the Leafs this season has been the slow start of forward Phil Kessel who has only two goals after 15 games and didn’t get his first until game 11.  Streaky as Kessel is, he wasn’t without chances, as he’s taken 60 shots on goal this year so far.  Fortunately for Toronto they’ve been getting help from Tyler BozakJames Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri.  Kadri who is finally getting regular ice time leads the team in scoring with four goals and eight assists for 12 points.  JVR leads in goals with eight, indicating that the change of scenery from always sunny in Philadelphia to Toronto has helped. The Leafs as a team are among the league leaders in goals for, and won’t make this an easy game for the Panthers.  Their defence is active with captain Dion Phaneuf and John-Michael Liles as the leaders of the blueline corps.

Despite injuries throughout their lineup, the Leafs have responded, and as a team are still marching forward staying alive in their chase to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2003-2004.  They currently are the only team since the 2004-2005 lockout that hasn’t made the postseason.

The Panthers are closing out what has been a disappointing homestand.  Despite the fact that they’ve recorded a point in the three games played so far, they are looking for their first win in four games.  Desperate hockey is what needs to be played at this point as the season is on the verge of slipping away.  Losing two 2 goal leads in the closing minutes of games is a trend that needs to stop.  We can talk about all the things that the Panthers need to do, and what they should be doing, however the bottom line is that they need a win.  Tonight.

Some line changes for tonight based on this morning’s pre game skate:  The Kid Line is together, then you have Kopecky with Goc and Flash, Skille, Weiss and Matthias, and Parros, Smithson and Kovalev.  I really like the trio of Kopecky, Goc and Flash.  Let’s see how this turns out.

There really isn’t much else to say as far as a prediction or preview is concerned.  The defence has to tighten up, the goaltending has to be better, and from an offensive standpoint we need to keep the pressure on.  It’s really that simple.

Game Notes:

* This will be the 61st meeting between the two teams.  The Panthers own a 24-24-7-5 record.

* The Panthers have won five straight against Toronto and have picked up points in 16 of the last 19 games (13-3-3).

* Jonathan Huberdeau with six goals, is the only rookie to lead his team in goals scored this season.

* The Panthers are 1-1-4 in their last six games, five of which have gone to overtime or a shootout.

* Alex Kovalev needs one more assist for 600 in his career, and Tomas Fleischmann needs one more goal for 100 in his career.

* Kris Versteeg played 53 games for Toronto in 2010-2011 with 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points.

* Dion Phaneuf needs one goal for 100 in his NHL career.

* In 23 career games againts Florida, Phil Kessel has 9 goals and 4 assists for 13 points.

See you at the game tonight!

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman,  Paige Lewis @RatTrickLewiz Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Adam Reid@AdamReid Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44, Justen Rosenberg @justenrosenberg, Lori Carpenter @lmcangel13, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

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