Opponent Blog: Editor-In-Leaf
(Preview via Jim Cerny from BlueShirts United)
Coming off a rare loss, the New York Rangers return to action tonight on the center stage of Hockey Night in Canada as they open up a tough weekend of back-to-back games with a tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers were shut out 3-0 by Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators Thursday at The Garden, only their tenth loss in regulation this season—the fewest for any team in the NHL. Playing against a team that has bettered its defensive play recently, the Rangers will look to generate more offense tonight than they have in their previous two games when they have scored only one non-shootout goal.
The Maple Leafs have won four of their last five, with two of those victories being shutouts over Buffalo and Winnipeg. 27 year-old goaltender Jonas Gustavsson backstopped both of those shutouts, and he has already helped the Leafs defeat the Rangers twice this season. However, Gustavsson and his teammates dropped a 3-2 decision in Buffalo last night.
The lineup and keys to victory after the jump.
Injuries: Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (shoulder), Brandon Dubinsky (shoulder), Jeff Woywitka (foot) are all OUT for tonight’s game.
KEYS TO VICTORY
RESPECT KESSEL, BUT NOT TOO MUCH- As the famous Torts’ line from 24/7 suggests, Phil Kessel is a great player but don’t sh*t your pants on him. He’s got all-world skill but he can be stopped when played properly. Need evidence? In the last two games for the Leafs, both Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have been held pointless (first time that has happened all season) and they went 1-1. The Blueshirts will make a win easier to come by if they stretch that streak to three games.
BREAK THE PATTERN- The Maple Leafs have given the Rangers fits this season albeit both contests were at the Garden. Tonight marks the first time they’re playing in the Air Canada Centre. Historically, the Rangers have suffered in Toronto, but were 2-0 there last season. P.S. – another pattern that needs to be broken is the anemic power play. Without a reliable one, it will be difficult to maintain #1 in the East; plain and simple.
DO THE DIRTY WORK- Torts made it clear after Thursday’s loss to the Senators that the top players need to simply play better. Brad Richards is in a funk right now (hopefully not Olivia Munn related), the GAS line has stalled with Artem Anisimov being removed from the line for poor play, and don’t think for one second not having Brandon Dubinsky in the lineup doesn’t have an effect. The top players need to take a page out of their grinding, lower-six counterparts: put the work in down low and along the boards while transitioning off of good defense and the offense will come.
**Prediction- The Rangers get back to their winning ways from superb goaltending courtesy of Marty Biron, scoring two in the third period to win 3-1. Callahan twice and Wolski are the Rangers’ goal scorers.