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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #21: 5 things to watch for against Boston

We’re going to start off with a positive because what we all need now more than ever is to hear something positive about the Leafs. The positive is that after tonight the Leafs don’t play Boston again until March and that will be last time the two teams face each other until the first round of the playoffs*

(*assuming the Leafs get in)

The rest of the preview is probably going to get a lot darker, so if you want to tap out now, I don’t blame you. The game starts at 7PM and is on TSN 4. Godspeed.

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If you want to read the rest, you were warned.

LW C RW Forwards
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 73.9#44 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

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Rating: 80.1#7 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 73.5#44 RW

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FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.83#17 FL1
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 73.6#61 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

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Rating: 78.7#11 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 72.8#54 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.05#6 FL2
Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 74.4#34 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 72.7#92 C

Trevor Moore
TREVOR MOORE

Rating: 70.9#110 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.66#13 FL3
Nic Petan
NIC PETAN

Rating: 72.0#113 LW

Nick Shore
NICK SHORE

Rating: 70.8#138 C

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 68.8#114 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.50#24 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 76.8#8 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.7#83 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.24#18 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 75.2#18 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.5#20 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 75.38#1 DL2
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 72.9#65 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 73.2#49 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.03#13 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Brad Marchand
BRAD MARCHAND

Rating: 85.6#2 LW

Patrice Bergeron
PATRICE BERGERON

Rating: 81.5#3 C

David Pastrnak
DAVID PASTRNAK

Rating: 85.9#1 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 84.33#1 FL1
Anders Bjork
ANDERS BJORK

Rating: 71.5#92 LW

David Krejci
DAVID KREJCI

Rating: 75.0#42 C

Charlie Coyle
CHARLIE COYLE

Rating: 72.8#87 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 73.10#20 FL2
Joakim Nordstrom
JOAKIM NORDSTROM

Rating: 70.1#162 LW

Sean Kuraly
SEAN KURALY

Rating: 71.4#125 C

Chris Wagner
CHRIS WAGNER

Rating: 70.4#123 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 70.62#29 FL3
Trent Frederic
TRENT FREDERIC
Par Lindholm
PAR LINDHOLM

Rating: 69.7#171 C

Danton Heinen
DANTON HEINEN

Rating: 72.1#71 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.40#14 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Zdeno Chara
ZDENO CHARA

Rating: 76.0#11 LD

Charlie McAvoy
CHARLIE MCAVOY

Rating: 76.9#11 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 76.45#4 DL1
Matt Grzelcyk
MATT GRZELCYK

Rating: 74.0#37 LD

Brandon Carlo
BRANDON CARLO

Rating: 75.9#17 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 74.97#3 DL2
Urho Vaakanainen
URHO VAAKANAINEN
Connor Clifton
CONNOR CLIFTON

Rating: 73.4#43 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.22#9 DL3

I always look at the Bruins and they appear to be one outstanding line and strong goaltending, and yet somehow they get amazing performances out of players I never knew existed and we leave thinking that Sean Kuraly is the prototypical 3C. How? Oh yeah, good coaching.

Here are the 5 thoughts.

Watching Ceci through Dubas’ eyes

I generally think that Dubas is a pretty smart guy. I also think he’s not the kind of guy who would throw one of his players under the bus. That’s why his praise of Cody Ceci and his assertion that he’s been good this year has mean at least trying to briefly hit reset on my “Ceci is terrible” takes. I’m not sure how much of a benefit of a doubt I’m wanting to give here, and I think like the criticism of Gardiner before him, there’s something to be said for when a player might make few mistakes, but the ones he does make are catastrophic, there is still reason to be fed up with said player. In the past I’ve supported Jake Gardiner as long as he wasn’t in an odd man rush situation, and to this day you cannot convince me that any good came of Larry Murphy’s time in Toronto, but I like Dubas, and I’ll give Ceci another look this weekend.

Waiting on the real Tyson Barrie

Tyson Barrie is having a bad time. He hasn’t been particularly good, but he’s also playing in a new system with new restrictions imposed on his game and it’s going to take some time.

I think some expectations of Barrie were a little too high. Barrie was never going to be the premiere offensive weapon from the blueline. He doesn’t have as complete a skillset as Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner, but he did well with having the green light to go when he saw fit in Colorado and certainly seems to miss the powerplay time. His regular shift against tough competition with Jake Muzzin is probably a lesson learned in that he’s not capable of being on the ice for shutdown situations, and perhaps, at least in the short term flipping Holl and Barrie might rejuvenate Barrie’s game, while also giving him and Dermott a chance to play in more offensive situations and hand the defensive toughs to Muzzin-Holl.

The Fourth line shuffle

It’s probably a pretty safe bet that whoever isn’t playing on Friday night will be in on Saturday, as it will be nice for the Leafs to have at least a few fresh sets of legs for the Crosby-less Penguins. My thoughts, are the best skaters of the group Petan/Timashov are the best bets of playing on Saturday, and let the tired old legs go tonight.

Additionally, we need to keep an eye on Trevor Moore and Freddie Gauthier to see if they need to start being considered for trips to the press box. Neither has delivered on anything since the first couple of weeks of the season, and being adorable try-hards seems to be what has carried them so far, not any kind of on ice success over the past 15 games.

While on the topic, Jason Spezza needs to be playing every night at this point and I don’t know why this needs to be said.

Auston & Willy

I just wanted to remind everyone briefly while the rest of the team seems to be turning to shit, these two have been red hot lately and an absolute joy to watch.

Wait, what? Kerfoot?

Okay, so I’m not going back and rewriting a whole lot of preview, but it’s just been announced that Alex Kerfoot is out indefinitely.

That probably addresses my initial concern about Spezza not being in the lineup every night. I guess it’s truly horrible how things find a way of working themselves out.

At least it should be interesting.