PUCK DROP: 6pm Central thanks to HNIC
TV: WGN, CBC in the Great White North
THE ZOO: Pension Plan Puppets
POSSESSION STATS: Leafs – 54.5 CF% (4th) Hawks – 51.1 CF% (9th)
POWER PLAY: Leafs – 23.7% (7th) Hawks – 27.8 (6th)
PENALTY KILL: Leafs 83.3% (16th) Hawks – do you even wanna know?
TRENDS: Kadri has three points his past two games, you may have heard Auston Matthews has five goals
The Hawks turn right around tonight and face another team full of young go-hards. Though where the Jackets had most of their youth on the blue line, tonight they’ll see the Maple Leafs who are oozing youthful machismo up front. The Hawks certainly won’t get much of a break in pace tonight.
You’re going to be sick of the Leafs fairly well soon, almost certainly far before they’re really any good. But looking at the forward corps you can see why everyone in the T.O. is pretty excited. Marner and Nylander aren’t even playing center yet, and when either move to the middle they’re going to have impressive center depth. That should come about the time they finally discover that they can’t discover what it is Tyler Bozak actually does. But with Nylander, Marner, Matthews, Hyman, and the still useful JVR (the good one) and Kadri still around, this team is already not lacking firepower. They may not be good but they’re not going to be boring.
Still, the Leafs have some catching up to do on the blue line. When Connor Carrick is getting major minutes, you have a problem. When Roman Polak is in the same zip code as your team, you have a problem. Freddy Andersen is representative at best, but he’s not going to put out the fires the blue line is going to start. Witness the the four-goal lead they coughed up in Winnipeg earlier in the week.
Still, they have Mike Babcock has them playing the right way. They were actually a good possession team last year with absolutely nothing, and now he’s got some toys to play with. That’s why, though still early, the Leafs are up amongst the glitterati in terms of Corsi-share. And with the kids still needing to learn, you can imagine they’re not going to hold anything back tonight.
For the Hawks, we won’t get much word on lineup changes until later. TVR is crocked until Christmas or thereabouts, so the Hawks will be back to six d-men. Hossa could be available, but with another game Monday might be wisest to hold him back. Vinnie Hinze almost certainly draws back in either way. The rest should stay the same.
The Leafs don’t have anything to throw at Kane’s line, whichever center he’s got tonight. Even if they did they won’t get the last change, so you should expect them to make an impact. The Hawks will need them to, because other than Richard Panik dunks and hurls, they aren’t getting much scoring anywhere else.
Scott Darling will get the start to see if he can slow the avalanche of power play goals that have been pouring over the Hawks…say it with me…coming down the mountain. The Leafs don’t have a Subban or Ghost Bear or Werenski, though Rielly is certainly far from helpless back there.
Hawks could use the confidence boost, but if they’re not tight he Leafs can light you up. They’ve scored 16 goals in four games so far this year and only the Wild have kept them under four. But then again the Sens, Bruins, and Jets have shoddy blue lines and the Hawks don’t. Or at least supposedly don’t.
Enjoy it if you’re watching. I’ll be over here breathing into a paper bag.