In Toronto’s opening season loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, we saw what looked like a completely different Maple Leafs team than we watched last year. A strong possession game, an abandon of the dump-and-chase… A noticeable lack of skill and finish. We don’t expect this team to win a lot of games this season, but it’ll still be worth tuning in if this Mike Babcock team can but in the same consistent effort on a daily basis.
Tonight, the Leafs travel to Detroit. While Babcock already returned to his longtime NHL home, this will be the first time the new Leafs coach visits during the regular season. The Red Wings are the better team, but not quite the same playoff juggernaut they’ve been in years past. Expect a good game.
Babcock is reportedly going with the same lineup he used in Wednesday night’s tilt, which means that a few new and familiar faces will have to wait a little longer to make their season debut. Michael Grabner, Frank Corrado, and Roman Polak will be in the press box tonight.
The Red Wings
You may have already seen him play in the preseason, but if you haven’t you really need to keep a close eye on Dylan Larkin. The 19-year old University of Michigan standout will make his NHL debut this evening on the top line on Henrik Zetterberg’s wing, and he’s seriously skilled. In fact, Toronto was thought to be very interested in Larkin at the 2014 Entry Draft but instead opted for William Nylander with the eighth overall pick.
On the injury front, you’ll notice that Pavel Datsyuk from the lineup below. Bad news for the Magician, good news for the Leafs.
What to Watch For…
- While Tyler Bozak led all Leafs forwards in ice time last game, Nazem Kadri was still the de facto number one centre. Anyone who lines up with Toronto’s most gifted offensive winger, James van Riemsdyk, is the top guy. It’s a big season for Kadri, so it’s good to see him playing with talented linemates.
- Jonathan Bernier wasn’t horrible last game, but he wasn’t terribly impressive either and gave up a soft goal on Montreal’s first shot. He’s the team’s starting goaltender, but if he falters tonight and James Reimer puts in a convincing performance tomorrow against Ottawa, that could all change.
- Winnik-Spaling-Parenteau. Heck of a fourth line, considering what the Leafs have trotted out in recent seasons.