The Toronto Maple Leafs have not had a good season.
They currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 15-20-4 record. Their little four-game undefeated streak to start the season off has been their longest winning streak of the season. Since then, they're 11-20-4, and are looking at yet another playoff-less season under GM Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson. The fan base has to deal with knowing that not only did they lose the second overall draft pick to Boston at least year's draft, the in-need of a rebuild Leafs will lose this year's first rounder as well. Tyler Seguin and a first rounder were, in essence, sent to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel.
Kessel is third on the Leafs in scoring with 16 goals, 11 assists, and 27 points. He's also a painful -13. The Leafs' leading point-getter is former Thrashers trade-deadline rental Clarke MacArthur. You might remember Clarke from this off-season's arbitration award fiasco. The arbitrator awarded MacArthur $2.4 million dollars, and Rick Dudley decided that money'd be better spent elsewhere. He signed with the Leafs, and began the season on a torrid goal-scoring pace. He's calmed down (he has ten goals and twenty assists through 39 games), but has proven to be a solid acquisition to the Leafs.
Neither he nor former Thrasher Colby Armstrong (who signed with the Leafs as a UFA this offseason) are missed by the Thrashers, who can rack up the points on their own. As pointed out by Chris Vivlamore, the Thrashers are getting scoring by committee. The Thrashers have seven ten goal scorers, with three (Antropov, Enstrom, and Bergfors) on the cusp. The team's fourth in the league in goals scored (132). Toronto is 27th, with 96. They have five 10-goal scorers, but they have two (Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski) with fifteen or more, and another - Nikolai Kulemin - with thirteen. When these three score, as Kessel did twice last night against St. Louis, the Leafs can win. When they're held off of the scoresheet, the team has problems.
Maple Leafs starter J.S. Giguere is still on the injured reserve, and current starter Jonas Gustavsson started last night against St. Louis, giving up five goals and having a devil of a game. "Monster" had a 1-1-0 record against Atlanta in 2009-2010, with a 2.01 GAA and a .911 SV%. Chances are good that we might see his back-up call up tonight in Atlanta. James Reimer has never faced off against the Thrashers before for a full game (he played briefly after Gustavsson was pulled in the Thrashers' victory last month), so he's still an unknown quantity.
The Thrashers will be starting Ondrej Pavelec against him, who is very much a known quantity to the rest of the league. In last month's 6-3 victory over the Leafs, Pavs stopped 37 shots. In his career, he's done middlingly well against the Leafs, going 3-1-1 with a 3.21 GAA.
|2010 - James Reimer
|2010 - Ondrej Pavelec
The lines for tonight's game should be the same as they were in Florida, with both Eager and Slater out with injury and Freddy Meyer will be the healthy scratch on defense. Keep an eye on Toby Enstrom tonight. He had two assists on Wednesday night and is second on the team in scoring with 35 points. He's also eighth in the league in assists with 28. His defensive partner, Dustin Byfuglien, leads the team in scoring with 41 points.
For some genuine fun, visit Pension Plan Puppets tonight and try to keep up with one of their Game Day Threads.