LGD – GAME 61: LEAFS @ ISLES – WE’RE BACK!!!

kessel

Above is a file photo of Phil Kessel thinking about slacking off at practice, how the IOC plans on refunding New York Islanders season seat holders, and just being the greatest guy ever.

Welcome back! The Olympic break is over and the Leafs are finally back to playing games as they visit the New York Islanders. Are you excited? ARE YOU?!?! Good. K good. I was worried. Good.

KEY STATISTICS

Since the lovely Cam Charron is not writing this, I’d like to change the pace up a bit. For those of you dying to know the Corsi aspect of this game: The Leafs are 29th and the Islanders are 23rd. So tonight should be, uh, festive? Festive.

Here are the stats I find necessary.

  • Amount of 2014 Olympic medalists appearing in tonight’s Leafs lineup: 0
  • Amount of 2014 Olympic medalists appearing in tonight’s Islanders lineup: 0 (John Tavares is hurt)
  • Amount of goals Phil Kessel has: 31 (2nd in the NHL)
  • Amount of time you should spend reading an article about Kessel having a bad practice: None
It’s worth mentioning that while the New York Islanders are the 3rd-worst team in the Eastern Conference, and while they’re missing their top offensive weapon in John Tavares (3rd in NHL scoring with 66 points), the Islanders still have offensive weapons. Kyle Okposo is still near the top of the NHL with 59 points, Frans Neilson has 43 points, and Thomas Vanek has 40. It’s a pretty steep drop-off after that though. Oh wait – Neilson’s hurt, too??? Woof.


LINEUPS (VIA DAILY FACEOFF)

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – David Clarkson

Troy Bodie – Nikolai Kulemin – Mason Raymond

Frazer McLaren – Jay McClement – Trevor Smith

Carl Gunnarson – Dion Phaneuf

Cody Franson – Jake Gardiner

Tim Gleason – Morgan Rielly

Trevor Smith, who hasn’t played since December 17th due to injury, will step into his first game of 2014 tonight. Before the season began, Smith was named captain of the Toronto Marlies. He scored an impressive four goals and eight assists for 12 points in seven AHL games… And that’s it. He’s been a Leaf ever the vast majority of the time.

This injury update from David Alter is worth noting, as well.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Thomas Vanek – Brock Nelson – Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner – Josh Bailey – Cal Clutterbuck

Anders Lee – Ryan Strom – Colin McDonald

Mike Halmo – Casey Cizikas – Eric Boulton

Travis Hamonic – Andrew MacDonald

Lubomir Visnovsky – Thomas Hickey

Calvin de Haan – Brian Strait

As you can see, that roster ain’t pretty up front without Tavares or Neilson there. You never know, though. One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity. It’s a chance to earn an NHL paycheque, earn minutes that matter, and contribute in a key role to a team that needs you. Who knows who will step up? You can also pretty much put money on a McLaren-Boulton scrap.

STARTING GOALIES

Jonathan Bernier starts in net for the Leafs while Evgeni Nabokov starts for the Islanders. On a Leafs-centric site, you probably don’t need to mention how good Bernier has been. His .927 save percentage is one of the best in the league, and he’s been a huge part of the Leafs’ playoff push this season. On the other hand, Nabokov sits with an awful .908 save percentage. Even more awful is that he’s the best goalie the Islanders have.

Stats are stats and facts are facts, but hockey is hockey. This is a weird game. The teams will probably be rusty. Some players are going to be tired. Some guys are going to be out of shape. Some guys might play the best game of their lives tonight. 

It’s anybody’s game, and that’s why they play.