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By: Spencer Lussier

The break is done and the unofficial start to the second half begins tonight for the Maple Leafs as the St Louis Blues are the latest to visit the city. Both teams entered the league mandated break losing their respective games, which should motivate both teams to start the second half in a positive way.

The Leafs closed out the first half struggling, dropping six of their last eight games, despite strong overall performances. The Leafs recent issues translate to prior issues last year which was holding a lead late in games. Obviously, this issue is highlighted by the Columbus loss last week, but in their two shootout wins they also let in goals late to force overtime. The Leafs are in a good situation being in a weak Atlantic Division, and have a favourable schedule in the second half with 37 games spread out over 82 days, so rest won’t be an issue for the Leafs. The Leafs however now find themselves in a battle with the Boston Bruins for the second spot in the Atlantic and the ever so important home ice advantage.

St. Louis provides an issue for the Leafs as the bring speed and size which has been the subject of issues for the Leafs of late. The fore check has taken a toll on the Leafs defence core, forcing their subpar unit to make costly turnovers. The Blues are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games but are losers of their last three after a big 2-1 win the game before against the Vegas Golden Knights, and have the overall tools to play a competitive game tonight against the Leafs.

Player to watch for St. Louis:

Brayden Schenn is the player to watch for on St. Louis. The Blues traded for Schenn in the offseason, and this move now is considered the best offseason acquisition. Schenn has fit well in St. Louis, instantly finding chemistry with Tarasenko and Schwartz, forming one of the best first lines in the game. Schenn has 44 points in 46 games and will look to continue improve on his best first half of his career.

Watchability Scale:

Now for 2018 we have developed a criteria to meet basing each game off of these five categories: Pace of Play, overall offensive skill, Goaltending, Physicality and Special Teams. For this game against the Blues, I have to give this game a 7/10 on the scale because I am anticipating a fast game against two skilled teams. Both teams have an automatic draw which are their two star players which are Auston Matthews and Vlad Tarasenko for the Blues. The Leafs have significant edge in special teams with both penalty kills being average but the Leafs have the 9th best powerplay compared to the Blues who are in 29th.  Especially being the first game back, I am sure a lot of Leafs fans will be tuning in because they just went the past six days with out their dose of Blue and White.

Lines:

LEAFS:

Hyman – Matthews – Nylander

Marleau – Kadri – Komarov

JVR – Bozak – Marner

Martin – Gauthier – Brown

Rielly – Hainsey

Gardiner – Carrick

Dermott – Polak

Andersen

BLUES:

Barbashev – Stastny – Tarasenko

Jaskin – Schenn – Steen

Sobotka – Berglund – Thompson

Upshall – Sundqvist – Thorburn

Gunnarsson – Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester – Parayko

Edmundson – Bortuzzo

Allen

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