Remember the Winter Classic? Fun under the -20 celsius sun? Tyler Bozak, hair flowing in the wind, scoring the shootout winner in front of over 100,000 fans as snow gently kissed his rosy cheeks?
Well this isn’t quite the same.
It’s indoors, not outdoors. It’s Detroit, not Ann Arbour. It’s Joe Louis Arena, not the Big House. What remains the same is it’s two points up for grabs.
Let’s focus on the standings for this one…
If the Leafs win tonight, they could leapfrog the Canadiens and Lightning for second in the Atlantic. If Detroit wins, they’ll pass the Capitals and sit one point back of a playoff spot. It’s that time of year, folks.
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – David Clarkson
Mason Raymond – Nikolai Kulemin – Troy Bodie
Carter Ashton – Jay McClement – Paul Ranger (7th D)
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner – Cody Franson
Tim Gleason – Morgan Rielly
Hey look! No goons! One note: Personally, I would like to see Carter Ashton see some more ice. He played 2:29 last game and hasn’t played more than five minutes in an NHL game since January 28.
Daniel Alfredsson – David Legwand – Johan Franzen
Gustav Nyquist – Riley Sheahan – Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller – Luke Glendening – Todd Bertuzzi
Brendan Smith – Cory Emmerton – Teemu Pulkkinen
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey – Dan DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl – Brian Lashoff
Look at this roster. No Datsyuk. No Zetterberg. No bunch of other guys. The Wings are icing half an AHL team tonight. If the Leafs can’t win this one, that’s bad.
Seriously, if the Leafs lose this game it would basically undo winning two of three in California. This is the last game of a five-game road trip. A win would mean earning six of a possible ten points. A loss in regulation would be just four of ten. A losing road trip is a losing road trip whether they beat the Ducks and Kings or not.
The Red Wings are going with Jimmy Howard. He’s 1-3-1 in his last five games and isn’t having the greatest of years by his standards. These are the Leafs though, so at least Howard has a pretty good shot at having a lighter workload than his counterpart.
Who is that counterpart? James Reimer. The Leafs are going with Reimer once again. Hey here’s a stat:
Starting tonight in Detroit, James Reimer set to appear in fourth straight game for the first time this season.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) March 18, 2014
Here’s something Reimer’s agent tweeted earlier in the month.
Last season James Reimer was 7-2 in games immediately after a loss. 16-9-2 career. 1-0 this season in only chance.
— Ray Petkau (@RayPetkau) March 4, 2014
Since this tweet, Reimer followed up a loss to San Jose with a win in Los Angeles. Reimer’s last game was a loss to Washington, so maybe some redemption is in order.
Nick Kypreos had a thought on Hockey Central today. He said he would start Drew MacIntyre over James Reimer tonight. My initial reaction was to disagree but his reasoning makes sense. First of all, the Leafs play a crucial divisional game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night which, if we’re betting, is likely to be a tougher test than this banged-up Red Wings squad. He also said “What if Reimer gets hurt?” Well, Reimer could get hurt in any game. It’s hockey. Still, the thought was a frightening one. Kyper’s other compelling reason was that Drew MacIntyre, the Marlies’ starting goalie, knows this AHL-loaded Red Wings roster better. I’m a big Reimer fan and I’m not really hating that logic. Makes sense in a back-to-back situation like this one. Randy Carlyle decided otherwise.
The game starts at 7:30 eastern on Sportsnet Ontario.