The First 8
Posted 2:46 PM ET | Comments 1
As most of us know, the first 8 games last season played a large role in the eventual further dismantling of the roster by Brian Burke and the team missing the playoffs yet again. With that in mind I figured it would be fitting to take a glance at the first 8 this season, and throw out some predictions.
We'll start by reviewing last seasons first 8.
Game 1 vs Mtl. 4-3 - OTL
Game 2 vs Was. 6-4 - L
Game 3 vs Ott. 2-1 - L
Game 4 vs Pitts. 5-2 - L
Game 5 vs Nyr. 7-2 - L
Game 6 vs Col. 4-1 - L
Game 7 vs Nyr 4-1 - L
Game 8 vs Van 3-1 - L
Finally, in game 9, Toronto beat Anaheim to move to 1-7-1 on the season. One could argue that there were multiple games in that mix that Toronto outplayed their opponent, namely the Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver only to be victim of either their own goaltending, or their opponent's, but fact is, they didn't get the job done.
When we look at the first 8 games of 2010-2011, there are some strikingly similar match-ups in the works, with what I feel will be different outcomes.
In the season opener, Toronto plays their home opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Expect nothing less than overtime yet again between these two historical rivals. The Leafs will get out to a quick start and score the first goal of their season before Montreal does. But the game will end up in overtime with the final outcome needing a shootout. The Leafs will prevail, with rookie Nazem Kadri taking part in his first regular season shootout scoring the game clinching shootout marker. The Leafs take this one 4-3 in a shootout.
Toronto's second game pits them against the Ottawa Senators. The Leafs will be the eventual winners in this game as well with new comer Kris Versteeg leading the offense with 3 points and the Leafs defense shutting down the likes of Gonchar and Spezza and keeping the Sens off the score sheet. Final score 4-0 Toronto.
Toronto's third game of the season brings their first loss. Pittsburgh, eager to continue their early season message that last season's early exit was a fluke, sends Toronto a message that they still have a ways to go before they are ready to compete night in and night out with the likes of Crosby and Malkin. The Pens give the Leafs young forward crew a lesson in blowing out the opposition winning this one 6-1.
The fourth game on the schedule takes the Leafs into MSG to play the New York Rangers. Just two days after being shelled by the Penguins, the Rangers take advantage of a Leafs squad that is still a little shell shocked and reeling from their last outing and scores early and often and eventually leads to a 4-3 victory as the Leafs late game heroics fell short.
The Leafs take an early season weekend (and rare Saturday) off and regroup before meeting the New York Islanders at home for their fifth game. Two relatively young squads face off in a great game that again for Toronto needs overtime. This time, the game doesn't need a shootout and Toronto triumphs early on with Phil Kessel scoring the winner on a breakaway in overtime. Leafs win this one 3-2.
Three nights later, the New York Rangers come to Toronto for a rematch from 6 nights ago for game 6 and this time the Leafs show up for the start of the game making for a more evenly played game. Yet again, the game goes to overtime where nothing is solved and ends up in a shootout. With Gustavsson in net for Toronto, and Lundqvist in net for the Rangers, two Swedish goaltenders go head to head in a shootout that the Rangers eventually take in extra shooters with both goalies playing well all night. The Rangers take this one 2-1.
In game 7 Toronto heads to Philadelphia to play the Flyers. Two of the best defenses (on paper) in the East face off in a sure-to-be rough and hard hitting affair. PIMs exceed shots in a fight ridden match-up with Orr squaring off twice against Carcillo and Schenn one against Shelley. This game will be a battle all night long with neither team wanting to give an inch and with the team making the last mistake losing the outing. Toronto will fall to the Flyers on a late game goal and lose 3-2
For their eighth game the Leafs fly back home for a more wide open fluid paced game versus the Florida Panthers. This is a game that the Leafs exude confidence in, despite two straight losses. They end up pounding the Panthers 4-1 with the game really never in doubt.
That is a heck of a lot better than the 0-7-1, and hey, maybe I'm dreaming. I probably am, but that is how I see the first 8 playing out for the Leafs.
Due to what seems to be the inevitable trade of Tomas Kaberle in the near future, I am going to wait to do my preseason players/points prediction for this roster. If you feel like it, feel free to check it out closer to September!