Someone dumb once said "Goaltending in overrated." However tonight, he couldn’t be anymore correct. The Thrashers and Maple Leafs have met twice before this season and scored a combined 21 goals. The first game was a 6-3 win for the team from Hotlanta and the second a 9-3 drubbing by the Leafs. Even more impressive that seeing 10.5 goals a game? The fact that Toronto scored 7 of their 12 goals against Atlanta while on the powerplay, going a combined 7 for 11. To put that into a little perspective, without the two Atlanta games the Leafs season long PP% falls from 17.1% to 14.5%. Thank you Atlanta. Since that 9-3 game however, the Leafs PP has only gone 4 for 36, good for an 11.1% conversion rate and just god awful. Their PP is absolutely brutal to watch. It’s like a game of rod hockey where you only think to move the guy with the puck and leave the other 4 players motionless on the ice. Yet somehow this remedial strategy seems to work against the Thrashers, too bad we only play them 4 times a year then.
More on this game after the jump.
So we’ve established that the game plan for tonight is to draw as many penalties as possible, stand around on the powerplay, and score lots of goals. That’s the easy part. The hard part will be keeping the puck out of our own net. And that’s because J.S. Giguere is getting the start in net according to the Am640’s Jonas Siegel.(Hidden good news: The trio of suck Orr, Mitchell, and Lebda will all be watching from the press box.) Giggy’s has a GAA of 3.75 in the new year over 6 starts and 2 relief apperances and a sub .900 save % on the year. Atlanta’s dropped 3 straight and haven’t scored more than 3 goals in 14 games and are probably licking their chops with the chance to face Giguere and get their season back on the playoffs track. It’ll be up to the Leafs defense to shelter their goalie tonight and shutdown the pointmen for Atlanta who were pivotal in their early season success.
Let’s back track for a second and revisit the lineup from AM640 I linked to above. The 1st and 2nd lines look great and will probably be the 2nd and 3rd lines for the Leafs future. But it’s the 3rd line tonight that gives me pause. Crabb – Boyce – Kessel? The hell Ron Wilson? According to his recent remarks, Phil isn’t all too happy about the prospect of playing with career NHLers but this shouldn’t be a surprise to him as the quality of his linemates has been in freefall since he entered the league. First he had Savard, then Stajan, then Grabovski, then Mitchell, then Bozak, and now Crabb and Boyce. I think it’s clear that Phil ran over Wilson’s dog and this is his punishment. Kessel’s a 35+ goal scorer when not paired with AHL level talent and I’m not sure how such a move helps to break his current 10 game goal scoring slump. Seems pretty dumb to me. Hopefully Atlanta’s porous PK continues it’s holeyness and Kessel can pot one tonight because he desperately needs it and so does Wilson.
Well that’s all I have to say about that. 5-3 win for the Leafs. GO LEAFS GO!