The Maple Leafs host the New York Rangers tonight at Air Canada Centre. In order for the Leafs to grab their first win in three games, I present the following keys that will unlock two points for Toronto.
Limit Rick Nash
After struggling to produce last season, Rick Nash finds himself in an unexpected spot, atop the team’s points lead, with 10 goals and three assists in 12 games this season. His goal tally is second in the NHL (Corey Perry of Anaheim leads with 11). All but one of Nash’s 13 points have come at even strength. He will be a looming threat to the Leafs defence. Expect Randy Carlyle to utilize the last line change to match up against Nash accordingly.
The Rangers defence hasn’t been particular strong this season. Evidence of that was seen early in the year, when the Leafs defeated the Rangers 6-3 in New York City. The offence has to come through. Particularly, Nazem Kadri has to bust out of his current slump. He went without a point in the Leafs two-game jaunt out west. Kadri has just five points this season. The Rangers rank 22nd out of 30 teams in the NHL in goals against average. Henrik Lundqvist has struggled this season. He gave up six against Toronto and has given up three or more goals in four of his last five starts.
Special Teams Advantage
The Rangers are 23rd on the power-play and 17th on the penalty-kill. Meanwhile, the Leafs have managed to put together a pair of back-to-back solid special teams performances. The Leafs last two games represent the first time they had scored at least one power-play goal, and were perfect on the penalty-kill in consecutive games all season. A replication of this performance should ensure two points.