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Key Leafs games to watch in the month of December

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Photo credit:© Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
2 months ago
With the Leafs playing some uninspired hockey of late and the Atlantic Division being a dogfight, the upcoming month of December presents a crucial opportunity for the team to regain some momentum lost. That won’t be easy with key players on their blueline getting injured, but it will have to be done to keep up the pace.
Last month, my colleague Alex Hobson tackled the piece for this ongoing series while I was in the doghouse for having all three of my picks in October end in losses. His choices resulted in a .500 record so they were an improvement; here’s hoping I can keep up the pace this time around with my next three picks.

December 2nd – Leafs vs. Bruins

The first game to kick off the new month is important as they have a rematch against the division-leading Bruins, this time in Toronto.
This comes exactly one month after their first encounter which famously saw the Leafs not respond to Brad Marchand clipping Timothy Liljegren who got injured on the play and has been sidelined ever since. The discourse surrounding that game was intense and the players responded in kind by being more engaging throughout the month after that game. It will be a test to see if they have truly learned from that previous encounter and be better prepared for whatever Boston throws their way.
Adding further intrigue to the mix is the fact that the Bruins are currently in the midst of a funk, presenting Toronto with a key opportunity to not only close the gap in the race for the division crown but also strengthen their hold on a top-three spot in the division.
Having the last encounter end in a shootout means this is likely going to be another close one that will go down to the wire. Then again, anytime these two teams square off is always going to be interesting and this one is no different.

December 12th – Leafs @ Rangers

An Original Six game is always going to turn some heads (much like the previous game on this list), but this one is even more intriguing because the Rangers are the NHL’s best team at the time of writing. While their place in the standings may change by the time the game takes place, New York is certainly one of the leading contenders as the year progresses.
This is the first of two matchups for these two longtime rivals, and I sided with the earlier game simply because it is the Leafs’ first time playing against the Rangers. It is certainly going to be a challenge both for how good New York has been and that it is on the second half of a back-to-back, but that doesn’t take away from the anticipation of what should be an exciting game.
Adding further fuel to the fire is that this will be the first time Toronto will play against Erik Gustafsson since they let him walk in free agency. He is in the midst of a strong campaign with 16 points in 21 games played which saw him thrive on their top power-play unit while Adam Fox was injured. I’m sure there will be plenty of people curious to see if he and Jimmy Vesey have strong showings against their former team.

December 30th – Leafs vs Hurricanes

Speaking of ex-Leafs, their last game of the calendar year will see Michael Bunting make his return to Toronto after a successful two-year stint with the team. That fact alone is enough to make this game stand out, but there is certainly more to it.
Anytime these teams square off, there is always bound to be something funky that takes place. There are the obvious ones like the 8-6 afternoon bonanza and the David Ayres game, but even some of their recent matchups always have something weird occur. It’s fair to assume that this will probably continue in this one, and it being their first encounter of the season will add further intrigue to the mix.
Carolina may have gotten off to a slow start this season, but they remain a lethal threat to go on a deep run in the spring and they present the Leafs a great chance to see how they will stack up against a playoff-bound team. Heck, these two could have squared off in the previous postseason had Toronto had a better fate against the Panthers and who knows how that matchup would have played out with a Stanley Cup birth on the line.
Stats from Hockey-Reference.com and Natural Stat Trick.

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