In search of success at Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Buffalo Sabres tonight. What are the three keys to a Leafs victory, you ask? Well then…
Score Goals – Get Into The Game Early
It sounds simple enough, but it is also easier said than done. The Leafs have scored just twice in their last two games at home. Slow starts are having a large effect, resulting in just four goals scored in the first period through eight games this season. This is a rivalry game that should get the Leafs engaged early, and if they don’t become the aggressor, they could be in for a very long night.
The Maple Leafs went with seven defencemen for the last two games. While it worked out on Long Island, the experiment against the Boston Bruins was a failure. There needs to be an even spread in minutes. This means the fourth line needs around ten minutes of ice-time. This will be an adjustment with Matt Frattin having only played two games this season, while Carter Ashton has been patiently waiting to make his season debut. One of the two will be in the lineup and they have to be utilized.
Making 25 saves in a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks, Michal Neuvirth will be given the start in goal against Toronto. While his performance was good, his record against Toronto is anything but. In 11 career games vs. Toronto, Neuvirth sports a save percentage of .893 and goals against average of 2.96
Nazem Kadri has gone five consecutive games without a goal for the first time, since the 2011-12 season. He generated some chances, but his biggest asset to this team is scoring. If he’s not doing that, he’s in trouble.
Phil Kessel: When he scores this season, the Leafs are 3-0-0. When he doesn’t, they are 0-4-1. Enough said.