Back from the holiday break, the Maple Leafs are in the ‘Sunshine’ state to take on the Florida Panthers. Here are the Leafs three keys to a win.
JVR and Kadri
When paired together in Dallas, the duo clicked. James van Riemsdyk was on the ice for all four Leaf goals against the Stars, while Nazem Kadri’s set up a pair of goals and scored one of his own. Both are expected to skate together with Mike Santorelli on Sunday night. Kadri has eight points in nine career games against Florida, while van Riemsdyk has registered at least one point against Florida in every NHL season. Their contribution will be counted on again.
The Panthers are loaded with young talent that will push the Leafs on both sides of the ice. Rookie defenceman Aaron Ekblad has lived up to the hype as he joins young forward Nick Bjugstad atop the Panthers point totals with 19. In Ekblad’s case, he logs the second-most amount of ice-time and leads the NHL among scoring from rookie defenceman. Bjugstad’s success has come from Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant’s belief in his ability to generate chances, while stay true to his two-way game. Both players will be focal point for the Leafs. And when they aren’t on the ice, the Leafs will have Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, just to name a few more.
Bolland + Special Teams
David Bolland takes on his former team for the first time this season. Bolland departed to Florida after agreeing to a five-year contract. Injuries have kept Bolland from being able to score this season. Getting his first goal of the season against Toronto would be sweet for the Mimico, Ontario native. The Maple Leafs continue to have a top-10 power-play and penalty-kill, while the Panthers have the fourth-worst power-play in the NHL. Should the Leafs get into trouble with discipline, it shouldn’t cause a problem that they wouldn’t be able to handle.