The Maple Leafs are in Nashville tonight looking to snap a nine-game winless streak. Here are the three keys to a much needed two points.
The last time these two teams met, the Leafs suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season, a 9-2 home loss. It was part of a very difficult November, but they were able to bounce back following the game and have a good month of December. They showed resiliency then and they owe it to themselves to repeat recent history. Drawing on sources of motivation is difficult when you haven’t been winning games. Revenge presents an opportunity.
Carter Hutton has been in goal since Pekka Rinne went down due to injury a few weeks ago. While Hutton’s performances have been okay, the Predators have allowed more than three goals per game since Rinne’s injury. The Leafs are in need of a game where the goaltender can steal one and Jonathan Bernier admitted as much following Monday’s practice. The Leafs hold the upper hand in net. Nashville has scoring depth all around, which is why they are tops in the West. Their defence has been solid as well. Better goaltending gets it done.
Nashville is the best even-strength team in the NHL. How else can you explain the Predators being at the top of the standings with a 24th ranked power play and a 20th rated penalty kill? While the Leafs PP has slipped due to their recent scoring slump, their PK is 8th. If the Leafs are to get some goals, it looks like the power play is the route they need to take but they have to create their opportunities. The Leafs drew a season-low single power play in their loss on Saturday to Philadelphia.