THANKS BE TO BUDDHA! After a long summer, NHL hockey is finally back. The 82 game grind begins with a matchup against the Old Enemy. The Leafs built their playoff push last year in large part on their success within their division. They’ve not lost a season series to the Canadiens since 2006 which is funny because they’ve also been the worst team to ever play hockey in that span.
Opening Night Roster
Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Matt Frattin – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Colby Armstrong – Philippe Dupuis – David Steckel
Mike Brown – Matthew Lombardi – Jay Rosehill
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Luke Schenn – John-Michael Liles
Jake Gardiner – Mike Komisarek
Here’s what the Habs will be icing
Cammalleri – Plekanec – Kostitsyn
Pacioretty – Gomez – Gionta
Darche – Desharnais – Cole
Moen – Engqvist – Weber
Gill – Subban
Campoli – Gorges
Spacek – Diaz
via TSN ice-chips
Matt Frattin, after getting a one game taste of the NHL last year, will be looking to take advantage of Clarke MacArthur’s suspension to make a statement that he deserves to be up with the Leafs all year long. Jake "The Expressway" Gardiner forced Ron Wilson to blow a hole in the roster that most people, including Wilson and Brian Burke, expected to ice much to the chagrin of Cody Franson.
After David Steckel was acquired, I opined that the Leafs’ centre depth made it look like Tyler Bozak was going to be the odd man out going forward once everyone was healthy. Turns out, that with Connolly out of the lineup that Bozak is going to get at least one more crack at centering Phil Kessel.
A lot was made of Steckel’s face off prowess so some were a little surprised by his spot on the wing. At even strength, Steckel’s face off skills are not as important. On the penalty kill is where Steckel will be asked to win his battles in the circle.
The other good news story is Matthew Lombardi’s presence in the lineup. Twelve months after his first season in Nashville was cut short after two games, Lombardi will be centering Jay Rosehill and Mike Brown on the Leafs’ fourth line. This is to help ease him back into the flow of things. Philippe Dupuis is getting his chance with more offensive linemates while Lombardi gets his game legs back under him.
Last year the Leafs won this season opener as part of their four game winning streak to begin the year. They have a good first five games of the year so this is step one towards trying to build some early momentum. The marathon is about to start: GO LEAFS GO!