Last week it was the
54 best teams in the East who suited up against the Leafs. This week it’ll be the 2 worst teams in the West before a HNIC showdown with Vancouver on Saturday. In what is being called the West Coast Waffle week (WCW for you wrasslin’ fans), the Leafs take a tour of lovely Western Canada with stops in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.
Previous meetings with the Oilers and Canucks ended in blowout losses to both with scores of 5-0 and 5-3 respectfully. The Leafs-Flames game on Thursday will be their first meeting this season and captain Dion Phaneuf’s first game in the Saddledome since getting traded last season. But the Leafs can’t afford to look ahead to that as tonight they face the young Oilers who already have a taste for Leafs blood and are eagerly looking to get out of the draft lottery.
After an incredibly slow start, the Oilers are 6-3-1 over their last 10 games and definitely playing better hockey than their record would suggest. The injury sustained by Captain Shawn Horcoff led to Youtube star Linus Omark getting called up and he dazzle in his first game with a shootout goal that Dan Ellis didn’t find humorous at all.
Also with his callup, Omarks becomes the 4th player on the Oilers’ lineup to have been drafted by the team over the last 4 years. A great example of why drafting is so important to team development. If it wasn’t for their atrocious goaltending and defense, this would be a team to watch out for in the next 2 to 3 years as being a Cup contender.
Thankfully Tambellini is a moron and has no idea how to run a team. Maybe when the Oilers change their locale and move to Quebec City they’ll change their GM as well and finally stop being a perennial bottom feeder.
The Leafs are like the bizarro version of the Oilers. A young team build around a solid defense core but lacking a respectable offense. With Phaneuf’s return, the team has gone 1 and 1 with an embarrassing loss to a better Philly team and a hard fought win against the Habs.
Mike Komisarek and Brown remain out with injuries though it’s Brown that the Leafs miss most right now as his work ethic and self sacrifice provide great examples for the young players to learn from. Phil Kessel ended his goal scoring drought on Saturday but would need to score a hattrick tonight to get back onto a 40 goal pace for the season; which is what he needs to do to justify his much maligned trade in 2009.
In net tonight it’s a battle of the old bones as J.S. Giguere takes on Nikolai Khabibulin. Both are shells of their former selves though and likely in their last year(s) of playing in the NHL. Giguere’s decline has been fully exposed this season in Toronto and has been ongoing since his Stanley Cup win with the Ducks in 2007.
As shown below, since then he’s career save percentage has falling by .010 % from .922 to .912. Which is a whole lot over 3 years when it factors in 500+ career games.
Yeah, not good. Hopefully Giguere can stop his decline and just play "average" for the rest of the season. If he continues playing as a .900 goalie and gets a fair amount of starts, then the Leafs will finish in the draft lottery. He needs to be better; hopefully he can be.
Tonight I’m expecting pucks to go into the net with ease and ending up 5-4. Who will the winner be? No idea, but a Leafs win would be nice.