Entering Friday’s game, the Leafs were set to face a Murderer’s Row of Eastern Conference powerhouse teams: Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montreal. Two-fifths of the way through this gauntlet the Leafs have 2 shootout victories that were built on hard nosed play leading to late game comebacks; something that was all but thought an impossibility in TheLeafsNation.
What first seemed like an insurmountable task; coming out of this five game stretch alive; has turned into the possibility of turning the season around by sweeping the 5 Beasts of the East. What this whole stretch reminds me of is The Bride’s quest for vengeance in Kill Bill.
She was beaten and left for dead, much like the Leafs, but came out of her comma with a thirst for blood. And boy did she ever get it.
The Leafs have already slain two members of the Deadly Hockey Assassination Squad and look to cross a third name off of that list tonight; the Pittsburgh Penguins. This will be no easy task however as the best player on skates today will be there, waiting to ambush them with a shotgun full of rock salt and a drunk midget.
Sidney Crosby has gone bananas as of late, 48 points in 28 games this season, including 33 in his current 16 game point streak. That’s nuts. Much like the Penguins own 10 game win streak led by Sid the Kid. The most amazing part of all this? They’ve done it without Jordan Staal and as of late, without Evgeni Malkin.
Take the 2rd and 3rd best players off of any other team and they probably don’t win 2 out of 4, let alone 10 straight. Can the Leafs play spoilers tonight and end both streaks while continuing their own? If they play as hard as they did in the 3rd period in Washington they can.
Here are your starting lineups:
Malkin and Staal remain out with injuries.
The Penguins defense is woefully underrated led by All-Star vote leader Kris Letang. Their backend is going to be a tough nut to crack for the Leafs small forwards, but hopefully their speed can open up the ice for them. The last time these two teams met, Deryk Engelland gave Colton Orr a rare KO loss in a fight so expect #28 to want to seek revenge and even the score.
The early season jitters are gone for Fleury who’s been on a tear lately winning 9 straight while only letting in more than 2 goals once. His shot total against has been low however, so the Leafs need to create good scoring chances against him to find the twine.
Let’s make it three in a row.