Fresh off a victory in Columbus, the Maple Leafs’ begin a string of three consecutive games against Western Conference opponents, beginning with the Chicago Blackhawks. Here are your three keys to Leafs victory.
Get to Corey Crawford Early
He is the likely starter in goal against the Maple Leafs Saturday night and he’s cold, recently coming off an upper-body injury. The Maple Leafs had one of their biggest offensive games last season at Air Canada Centre, by way of a 7-3 win over Chicago. Some traffic in front of Crawford will be crucial, welcoming him back with a difficult time of spotting the puck.
The Blackhawks own the third best penalty-kill in the NHL at 90.6%. After going five games without scoring a power-play goal, Toronto now has back-to-back games in which they’ve registered at least one tally with the man advantage. Goals will be at a premium with Chiicago averaging less than two goals against per game. The absence of Joffrey Lupul will hurt the Leafs in this department. Peter Holland filled-in admirably and that is important. Both Lupul and Holland had two-goal performances against the Blackhawks in that lone game in Toronto last season.
Tight On D
The Maple Leafs need to find some way to channel what they did against the Sabres in their last home game. There are too many weapons in Chicago’s arsenal. You can’t key in on Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Sharp. Chicago is an all-round threat that will use its size and speed to challenge the likes of Dion Phaneuf and company. Kane, in particular, has nine points in seven career games against the Leafs and is coming off registering his 500th career point in his last game.
Emotions Run High
A proud day for the van Riemsdyk family as James will take on his brother Trevor in an NHL game for the first time. Aside from playing on the street, the brothers never played against each other at any level. There will definitely be bragging rights at stake.