Now this piece will be two topics in one. Not only will you get to see the preview of tonight’s rematch but there will be analysis from Toronto's 3-2 overtime win. Last night’s reaction and today’s thoughts go hand in hand based off of what I saw from last night. Auston Matthews did not travel with the team to Boston, indicating he is out again tonight, hopefully for the final time with the Leafs next game on Thursday night.
Even matchup…. Last night we saw an exciting game between the long-time rivals. Both teams had identical number of shots, same faceoff percentages, similar hit numbers and judging by the 3-2 overtime score, it just continues to show how similar both teams are. One glaring difference however is the fire power on offence. The Leafs have a balanced attack with a mix of skill and grit on each line. For Boston, they loaded up their offensive talent on one line, sticking Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak together. All three players recorded a point last night, but the damage was limited. These guys are true game breakers and deserve all the Leafs attention tonight.
Tonight’s thought… I expect nothing but the same from last night. Toronto was able to capitalize with Boston’s backup in net, which means Boston has that opportunity tonight with Curtis McElhinney getting the start for the Leafs. The game was physical and was enjoying to watch despite some key name out of each of the lineups. Toronto will now have to play tight defensively with their back up in net as well as shutting down Boston’s dynamic offensive line.
Marner on the rise?... Mitch Marner arguably played his best game of the season last night. He was buzzing in the offensive zone, and looked comfortable doing it. Marner saw an increase in minutes from his usual 14 minutes a night to close to 17 and a half minutes…. a full 2 and a half minutes more than William Nylander. Not to mention he delivered that pretty pass to JVR tying the game up and then assisting on Marleau’s overtime winner. Obviously without Matthews other players needed to step up and Marner caught my eye as the one who rose to the occasion.
Tonight’s thought…. Boston is the perfect team for Marner to get on a bit of a consistent game developed. As I mentioned above, Boston is as close to a one line team as you get in the NHL. With that being said, Head Coach Mike Babcock should and will most likely protect Marner from being on the ice against that top line, giving Marner a better matchup against less established NHLers on other lines, giving Marner time and space to play his shifty and crafty offensive game.
Runnin Rielly….. Morgan Rielly has quietly had a good start to the season. He added an assist last night pushing his point total to 14 points through 18 games. His point total is impressive but what I am more impressed with his new found defensive game making him an all around defenceman. A career minus player, even last year when the Leafs were good, he finished minus 20, this year Rielly has been floating around even, which in itself is a huge turnaround. For me this is where Ron Hainsey plays a factor, giving him a veteran presence to calm him down and allow for him to simplify his game. Hainsey has allowed Reilly to play against the top lines, which is evident in last night’s matchup against the Bruins. The Leafs will approach each game with a committee to matchup against star players, with a formidable second pairing of Gradiner and Zaitsev who can hold their own against the top players. It is an added weapon now that Reilly isn’t a liability on the ice against tougher matchups.
Tonight’s thought…. Rielly has not given me a reason to doubt his game. I expect another solid outing from the 5th year player who led the Leafs last night with close to 24 minutes of ice time. The last three games, Coach Mike Babcock has given Rielly more ice time, and even on the penalty kill. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rielly lead the team in ice time again tonight.
Be Prepared to be......Excited to Watch
Given the tight game yesterday, the rivalry between the two teams and the Hockey Night in Canada primetime matchup, I give this game 4/5 stars on the Watchability scale
Hyman - Marleau - Brown Rielly - Hainsey
Komarov - Kadri - Nylander Gardiner - Zaitsev
JVR - Bozak - Marner Borgman - Carrick
Martin - Moore - Leivo McElhinney
Marchand - Bergeron - Pastrnak Chara - McAvoy
Heinen - Szwarz - Bjork Krug - Carlo
Schaller - Nash - Acciari Postma - Miller
Beleskey - Kuraly - DeBrusk Rask