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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Quit Staaling the Game

The Leafs will be looking into their past tonight to really recognize the opposing team. The New York Rangers are admittedly tanking and their lineup definitely screams “we’re thinking about two or three years from now”.

Tonight, they faceoff against each other in Scotiabank Arena – where the Leafs are 10-5-1, coming back from the noticeable horrid start at home this season. While the Rangers are 4-9-2 away from the Garden, all four of those wins had to be decided in the shootout, so the Leafs definitely have the upper hand in regards to the venue.

In their previous three games, this Rangers team have earned four of the six available points – two overtime losses help that total, but they are definitely not completely bottoming-out like some other teams.

After a little dip in their otherwise fantastic season, the Leafs have outscored their opponents 13-3 in the last two games – completely overpowering their opposition. You almost feel bad for the Rangers tonight.

Leafs Lines

LW C RW
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON
John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES
Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER
Patrick Marleau
PATRICK MARLEAU
Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS
Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN
Connor Brown
CONNOR BROWN
Nazem Kadri
NAZEM KADRI
William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER
Tyler Ennis
TYLER ENNIS
Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER
Par Lindholm
PAR LINDHOLM
LD RD
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY
Ron Hainsey
RON HAINSEY
Jake Gardiner
JAKE GARDINER
Nikita Zaitsev
NIKITA ZAITSEV
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT
Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Andreas Johnsson gets the promotion up to the first line after bouncing around with the different centers. He’s only spent a total of eighteen minutes on the ice with Tavares and Marner, but those three together have a 56.41 CF% at 5v5 and even scored a goal in the short time they were together. Having Johnsson there will definitely lead to a more balanced attack, giving Marner another scorer to pass to – no offense to Brown and Hyman, but it’s Andreas Johnsson we’re talking about here.

On the blueline, Martin Marincin is in for Igor Ozhiganov for the second game in a row. It’s a small sample size of just over 45 minutes, but Dermott and Marincin have not been as good as they can be together. Only a 48.75 CF% at 5v5, compared to a 53.57 CF% when Dermott is paired with Ozhiganov – it’s minimal but might be able to improve massively against a weak team like the Rangers.

Rangers Lines

LW C RW
Filip Chytil
FILIP CHYTIL
Mika Zibanejad
MIKA ZIBANEJAD
Mats Zuccarello
MATS ZUCCARELLO
Chris Kreider
CHRIS KREIDER
Kevin Hayes
KEVIN HAYES
Pavel Buchnevich
PAVEL BUCHNEVICH
Jimmy Vesey
JIMMY VESEY
Brett Howden
BRETT HOWDEN
Vladislav Namestnikov
VLADISLAV NAMESTNIKOV
Boo Nieves
BOO NIEVES
Lias Andersson
LIAS ANDERSSON
 Ryan Strome
RYAN STROME
LD RD
Marc Staal
MARC STAAL
Neal Pionk
NEAL PIONK
Brendan Smith
BRENDAN SMITH
Anthony DeAngelo
ANTHONY DEANGELO
Brady Skjei
BRADY SKJEI
Adam McQuaid
ADAM MCQUAID

Comparing the Rangers forward group to their blueline is like comparing a young child filled with hope and promise, to your drunk and racist Uncle that won’t shut up about the time he pissed in an alley and beat up a cop.

Honestly, these forwards aren’t as bad as some other tanking teams in the past. You have Chytil, Andersson, Howden, and Buchnevich to look at for the future and then there are the young veterans like Zibanejad, Kreider, and Hayes to either think of trade value or solid pieces to keep around for when this team is good again. They at least have depth in skill and head coach Quinn isn’t scared of running four scoring lines.

Now the blueline is god damn scary – for Rangers fans. According to Corsica’s line rating model, the Rangers have the worst first pairing, worst second pairing, and the 22nd-ranked third pairing in the league. That is almost impressive. Marc Staal might as well be replaced by a life-size cardboard cutout of himself, at least the cutout wouldn’t just be riding the coattails of his family name on the ice.

Once a trade target, Brendan Smith has been paid and also spent way more time in the AHL than anyone expected him to. Calling his signing a bust would be complimenting him. His story should give us hope that we can be productive for about two years of our professional lives and then just coast for the rest – *cough* Damien and Steve *cough*.

Starting Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Babcock is going with his trusted Dane in this matchup against the Rangers. He has been one of the league’s best in between the pipes, so I guess it makes sense. But if this team is internally expecting to play far into Spring, old Babs might want to give Freddy a rest sometime. I guess having the Red Wings tomorrow makes him confident that Sparks can put on a good show.

Alexandar Georgiev

This 22-year-old Russian wonder is making his first start against the Leafs in his career. Signed as a European free agent from the Finnish Liiga, Georgiev has been pretty stable for the rebuilding Rangers behind the King so far – posting a .918 sv% in 10 appearances last season and only a .901 sv% in 9 appearances this season. He’s so young that you never really know, but it’s impressive for a goaltender in his early 20s to even be not completely useless in the NHL. His season has been a mixed bag, but knowing how unknown goalies perform against the Leafs historically, we’re in for a tough one.

How to Watch

Puck drop is at 7:00pm ET at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON. The game will be available on CBC and Sportsnet as part of Hockey Night in Canada, and will also be broadcasted on NHL Network if you’re south of the border.

I can already predict that a couple Rangers defencemen will be turnstiled by multiple Leafs forwards. This might be a fun game.

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