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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #36: What to Watch for Against the Rangers

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers go head-to-head in Madison Square Garden in a classic Original Six contest.

It’s an important game for both teams as they try and turn their disappointing starts to the season around.

Here are some things to watch for in tonight’s game.

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Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.4#39 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 79.9#9 C

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Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.1#7 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 77.48#6 FL1
William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

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Rating: 73.6#43 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 79.7#10 C

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Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 72.0#83 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.11#11 FL2
Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.6#48 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 72.3#95 C

Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 73.5#47 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 73.13#6 FL3
Dmytro Timashov
DMYTRO TIMASHOV

Rating: 73.0#64 LW

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 70.5#154 C

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 69.9#115 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.12#16 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 76.1#10 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.4#17 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 75.78#12 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 74.3#34 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.9#54 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.59#16 DL2
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 72.4#74 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.9#80 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.14#19 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Chris Kreider
CHRIS KREIDER

Rating: 73.6#50 LW

Mika Zibanejad
MIKA ZIBANEJAD

Rating: 78.6#15 C

Jesper Fast
JESPER FAST

Rating: 70.5#106 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 74.24#21 FL1
Artemi Panarin
ARTEMI PANARIN

Rating: 80.2#5 LW

Ryan Strome
RYAN STROME

Rating: 73.6#60 C

Pavel Buchnevich
PAVEL BUCHNEVICH

Rating: 71.7#87 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.18#9 FL2
Brendan Lemieux
BRENDAN LEMIEUX

Rating: 70.2#116 LW

Filip Chytil
FILIP CHYTIL

Rating: 71.4#127 C

Kaapo Kakko
KAAPO KAKKO

Rating: 73.2#54 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.58#18 FL3
Greg McKegg
GREG MCKEGG

Rating: 69.7#122 LW

Brett Howden
BRETT HOWDEN

Rating: 68.7#183 C

Brendan Smith
BRENDAN SMITH

Rating: 70.1#112 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 69.49#29 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Brady Skjei
BRADY SKJEI

Rating: 73.2#50 LD

Jacob Trouba
JACOB TROUBA

Rating: 75.0#22 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.14#17 DL1
Marc Staal
MARC STAAL

Rating: 69.5#119 LD

Anthony DeAngelo
ANTHONY DEANGELO

Rating: 73.7#37 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 71.60#29 DL2
Ryan Lindgren
RYAN LINDGREN
Adam Fox
ADAM FOX

Rating: 73.2#45 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.24#8 DL3

1. Goaltending Battle

This could turn into a goaltending duel, as both starting net minders are having fantastic seasons.

The Leafs are, of course, starting Fredrick Andersen, who makes his ninth straight start tonight. In his last eight games, he holds a 5-3-0 record, .922sv% and 2.38 GAA. Andersen is having a stellar year, boating a .931sv% at 5v5 and his 8.02 GSAA ranks fifth overall– amongst starting goaltenders with a minimum of 800mins of 5v5 TOI.

The Rangers are opting to start Alexander Georgiev, who at this point is really sharing the net with Henrik Lunqvist– the Bulgarian makes his 17th start tonight, only two fewer than King Henrik’s 19– and is holding his own for a Rangers team that’s allowing a tonne of High-Danger chances, with 348 HD Corsi Attempts against ranking as the second-most in the league ahead of only the Chicago Blackhawks. Georgiev has a .920sv% and 2.72 GAA this season, and a .921 5v5 sv%, so it could be a night that the goalies steal the show.

2. Matthews Point-Per-Game Watch

Auston Matthews currently has 241 career points in 246 career games, and he’s coming off of a two-goal performance against the Buffalo Sabres, and his tendencies recently have been two games on, two off in terms of picking up points. If the Leafs can find a way to solve Georgiev– the Rangers are allowing 3.15 GA/GM as a team so far this season– Matthews will likely be a part of the offence, and creep closer to finally being a career Point-Per-Game player.

3. Don’t Take Penalties

The Rangers’ powerplay isn’t deadly by any means, their 19.8 PP% is 15th in the league, but the Leafs’ penalty kill is struggling this year, ranking sixth-last in the league at 76.1%. Just stay out of the box, and win the game at 5v5.

4. Take All Your Shots in the Slot

The Leafs generate the majority of their 5v5 chances from the points, and slightly from the circles.

While the Rangers allow an abhorrent amount of chances in the High Danger area in the slot. If the Leafs are going to a solve Georgiev, then they’re going to have to shift their offence attack slightly and pepper the Rangers’ netminder from in close.

5. Push For The Playoffs

The Maple Leafs have 38 points through 35 games, and currently sit five points out of the final Wild Card spot behind the Philadelphia Flyers, while the New York Rangers have 36 points through 33 games. It might seem extreme to say that a game in December has playoff implications, but it does. The Atlantic division is wide open– even a team like the Boston Bruins who looked invincible are starting to come back to earth a bit– and the Leafs need get themselves back into a playoff position again and create some separation between the themselves and the teams around them.

 

Catch the game on Sportsnet Ontario at 7pm EST.


Traditional Stats courtesy of nhl.com | Advanced counts courtesy of naturalstattrick.com | Heatmaps courtesy of hockeyviz.com