LGD: Preparing for an Avalanche

So the Leafs opened the season with a solid effort against the Habs, a brutal loss against the Penguins, and an absolutely dominant win against the Rangers. Leafs Nation has had its ups and downs so far as a result, but people have stepped away from the big red button that says “PRESS WHEN THE END IS NIGH” and are a bit more cautiously optimistic. 

Tonight, the Avalanche are in town. Their first two games of the season (both against Minnesota) were pretty bad (the first one especially), but they pushed out a last second victory against the Bruins last night. Like the Leafs, the Avs are a bad possession/high shooting % team. Unlike the Leafs, the Avalanche don’t seem concerned in trying to fix that (although they’ve improved their possession a bit in the last two games). 

Both teams are fast and can score a lot. This should be a fun one.

THE LEAFS

Projected lines via DailyFaceoff.com

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel

Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Joffrey Lupul

Leo Komarov – Mike Santorelli – David Clarkson

Brandon Kozun – Peter Holland – Richard Panik

Dion Phaneuf – Stephane Robidas

Roman Polak – Stuart Percy

Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson

No changes from the game against the Rangers. Jake Gardiner looks to be sitting again, although there seems to be some mystery around that whole thing – separate reports suggest it’s possible that Robidas or Percy sit. Only Carlyle knows.

The first line, despite their powerhouse offensive performance on Sunday, is getting kill possession-wise. That needs to change if they want to have long-term success. Maybe they can take some pointers from the absolutely excellent second line – Kadri and Lupul were playing great already, but with Winnik on the other wing, they are something special. Maybe we finally have our new Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur. 

THE AVALANCHE

Projected lines via DailyFaceoff.com

Jamie McGinn – Matt Duchene – Jarome Iginla

Alex Tanguay – Nathan MacKinnon – Danny Briere

Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O’Reilly – Dennis Everberg

Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Max Talbot

Nick Holden – Erik Johnson

Jan Hejda – Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart – Ryan Wilson

Boy this forward group is special. Patrick Roy has set duos for each line to spread out the offensive talent. Duchene-Iginla, Tanguay-MacKinnon, and Landeskog-O’Reilly are the pairings. Seems like he’ll rotate the other players around to see what works. Briere had the last-second game winner against Boston, so based on a tiny sample size he seems to be fitting in with MacKinnon (but like, so would anyone). An interesting name in this lineup? 22 year old free agent signee Dennis Everberg, who has impressed on the “third” line (also referred to as the team’s first line). 

Not crazy about the Avs defense though. The Leafs will get their chances.

STARTING GOALIES

After a great performance on Sunday, James Reimer gets the nod again. Which is awesome for two reasons: 1) Carlyle really will play the hot hand no matter who it is and 2) that means Reimer wasn’t hurt too badly on Sunday. 

Reimer will be going up against Semyon Varlamov, who had a really bad performance against Minnesota…and then a really good performance against Minnesota. He, of course, had a spectacular season last year and while it is likely he regresses a tad, he’s still a great goalie.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

  • Who will actually sit for the Leafs on D tonight?
  • The Avs are fast, so the Leafs D is going to be tested a lot. With or without Gardiner, they have been beaten to the outside a lot. What will they do to slow the Avs down?
  • The Avs have tons of offensive weapons that haven’t broken out yet. You just know one at least one of them is going to have a great game tonight. My very daring bet? MacKinnon.
  • Toronto’s second line is vital tonight – they are going to be key to owning the puck and slowing down the counter-attack of the Avs. 
  • Speaking of counter-attack, expect the Leafs to trade tons of chances when the first line is on the ice.
  • Can Toronto’s third line also continue their strong play? Not a lot of offence between them, but they have cycled the puck well. Expect them to get toughs against…well, the Avs have like three first lines so no matter what, they’ll be tough minutes.
  • Can Reimer steal the starting job back?

While you wait for puck drop, you should sign up for the Nations Draft.   Get all the details here.