Head Coach Mike Babcock was not pleased with the Leafs effort on Wednesday night in their shoot out win against the Calgary Flames. Babcock said the Flames outplayed the Leafs as bad as they have been outplayed all year. Despite pulling out the win, Babcock is tired of seeing Frederik Andersen making 40 plus saves night in and night out. Tonight, the Leafs have a tough task to tighten their defensive play as they square off with the high-powered offence of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The defending, defending Stanley Cup Champions got off to a slow start early in the season, but have been on a tear lately, winning five of their last six games. Funny how a team can get back on a roll when their star player picks up their play. Since the beginning of November, Sidney Crosby has found his scoring touch, registering 17 points in his past 12 games.
Morgan Rielly missed yesterday’s practice for the Leafs, but is still expected to play tonight. The young defenceman who is in the middle of a breakout season was dealing with some general stiffness and had a maintenance day, which is why he was not at practice.
Player to watch on Pittsburgh
We know the names like Crosby and Malkin will be a major force each and every game for Pittsburgh, but the player to watch for the Penguins tonight is of course Phil Kessel. Someone Leafs fans are familiar to watching, Kessel has surprisingly been the Penguins most consistent forward all season. The former Maple Leafs currently leads the Penguins team with 35 points and a team high 14 goals. Kessel has scored in his last three games and you know he would love to bury another one tonight against his former team.
Since the inception of the scale, I have yet to give a game 5/5…..well no more as tonight’s matchup should have all the makings of an instant classic. You have two generational superstars going head to head in Auston Matthews and Sidney Crosby. Both teams have exceptional pace to their games, which should make for a fast game with quick transition opportunities for both teams. Pittsburgh number one goalie Matt Murray is out with injury, which means Tristian Jarry gets the start. He will be the main reason which will decide if this game is a blowout or competitive. Dare I say, but this could potentially be the matchup in this year’s Eastern Conference Final so get you playoff hockey fix early in December.