Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Nashville Predators at the ACC and are looking to finally sever their connection with their mistress – Ms. Losestreak. Nashville enters the match-up looking to extend a small winning streak to three games, while Toronto has lost their last four games at home. Their last win at home was also their last 2 point game prior to the streak, when they defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1 thanks to Colton “The Magician” Orr. I went with magician because he did a fine job of making a goaltender suddenly disappear.
Today’s morning media are an explosion of what-ifs and shoulda-couldas, but the fact remains that every journalist is simply frustrated that the team they are all die-hard fans of is struggling. Paul Hunter is no such man. He reminds us the struggles our last Stanley Cup winning team endured. “The Leafs set a franchise record [that season] for futility as their losing streak hit 10 games with the caustic Punch Imlach behind the bench.” While the Leafs are not likely to win the cup this year, it is nice to read something positive for a change and, let’s face it, Toronto barely lost to a division-leading Vancouver Canucks Saturday in a game that could have easily been the start to a new streak for Toronto.
It is the same thing we have all said at one point or another through the last 8 games. Something along the lines of “damn, they were outplaying them until that happened,” which makes us all understand that the bounces simply aren’t going Toronto’s way – but at least they are scoring again. Toronto lit the lamp 3 times against Roberto Luongo and his Canucks; hopefully that will stick with them as they prepare for another strong goaltender tonight in Pekka Rinne – a goaltender the Leafs are all too familiar with.
The Predators boast an all-time record of 6-4-1-0 against the Leafs in their 12 season history, but Toronto won their last meeting 4-3 thanks to a late goal by none other than Phil Kessel. To remind you of that event, here is a quote from the recap on mapleleafs.com: “Phil Kessel picked the perfect time to bust out of a scoring slump that hounded him since January began.” Kessel prepares for tonight’s game with just 1 point in his last 8 outings, and if history does repeat itself, you can expect a strong performance from him tonight.
In 2009, the Leafs fell 2-0 to the Predators in another one of their streaks. “Toronto dropped its fourth straight, has five losses in six games and eight losses in 10 games.” It was also at a time in which the Leafs thought Vesa Toskala was actually good, and is believed to be Vesa’s last decent performance in a blue and white sweater. Ron Wilson: “It’s frustrating, we wasted a solid effort by Vesa.” More than you would ever know, Ron. “There’s not much else to say. We’ve got to be better.”
On December 4th of 2007, Toronto beat the Predators at home 3-1 thanks to Wade Belak. Toronto had just snapped a four game losing streak and went on to win six of their last seven games. “I had pretty much given up on scoring,” said Belak. “I’ve been trying to keep them out of our net.” It has been the same method our current core has applied over the last two weeks.
Toronto seems to always meet up with Nashville in the midst of one streak or another. Tonight is no exception, and the Leafs must prepare themselves accordingly. It is evident to every Leafs fan now that Toronto will certainly “earn” each point they put up in the standings. With no first round pick this year, and thus no satisfaction of saying “well, at least we’ll have a good draft choice”, fans should be cheering (not booing) this team through each game. Toronto, apparently, only has one legitimate top three player on the club, and with two thirds of a top line yet to be introduced in their new system, fans and journalists alike must be patient. While there are no ways to find a quick fix immediately, Brian Burke will do his job to try and secure another blockbuster deal of sorts. Fans have been treated to the acquisition of Phil Kessel prior to the start of last season, Dion Phaneuf half a season later, and this year, hopefully, will not be the year of Kris Versteeg (unless he explodes out of his current state). With every point the Leafs earn, the Kessel deal evens out a little more.
Who’s Hot? Toronto:
Francois Beauchemin (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Mikhail Grabovski (C) 3 pts in last 2 GP
Kris Versteeg (W/C) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Clarke MacArthur (LW) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Who’s Hot? Nashville:
Cody Franson (D) 3 pts in last 3 GP
Shane O’Brien (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Francis Bouillon (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Patric Hornqvist (RW/LW) 3 pts in last 3 GP
Cal O’Reilly (C) 6 pts in last 6 GP
Jean-Pierre Dumont (LW/RW) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Who’s Cold? Toronto:
Mike Komisarek (D) 0 pts in last 4 GP
Nikolai Kulemin (LW/RW) 0 pts in last 3 GP
Phil Kessel (RW) 1 pts in last 8 GP
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (G) 0-2-0, 4.04, .857 in last 2 GPI
Jonas Gustavsson (G) 0-1-1, 3.84, .862 in last 2 GPI
Who’s Cold? Nashville:
Joel Ward (RW/LW) 0 pts in last 5 GP
Anders Lindback (G) 0-1-0, 3.36, .891 in last 2 GPI
Pekka Rinne (G) 2-3-0, 3.86, .865 in last 5 GPI
I will be liveblogging tonight's game on The Checking Line.com. Be sure to join in on the discussion!