John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Breakout: Rangers vs Leafs

The New York Rangers vs The Toronto Maple Leafs (silly Canadians can’t spell Leaves right)

The puck drops at 7:00pm from our Madison Square Garden

If the Rangers can manage to play tonight the way they did last night against the Wild, we are in for a real treat. What a game from Mats Zuccarello and Carl Hagelin. For thos of you who missed Chris Kreider proving Wayne Gretzky wrong, here it is. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well Kreider didn’t really take that shot now did he? In all seriousness, the 11 points over 11 games from Zuccarello has him right on the heels of Brad Richards. Only 1 goal separates the two and Richards has played in one more game than Zuccarello. Kreider, and now Hagelin, are the only players on the team who are on the plus side of the +/- stat; Kreider is +9 and Hagelin is +1. Tonight is the back side of our back to back and the end of our home-stand. The team seems to perform at an optimum level when they have one day between games but we gotta roll with the punches. Top performers in back to back games are Derek Stepan, Richards, Kreider and Ryan McDonagh; the latter each have 4 points while Stepan boasts six. Dan Girardi still leads the team in hits and blocks with 91 and 63 respectively. Kreider, Brian Boyle, and Derek Dorsett are trailing with 69,67,66 hits respectively. McDonagh is the closest to Girardi for blocks with 53. Although making mistakes early on, Girardi is cementing himself as the kind of defensive player we need more of on this team. In his post game presser, Vigneault alluded to knowing which goalie he would play but would not reveal his choice citing the excuse that he hadn’t told his goalies yet. Given the performance last night, I would shudder to think Cam Talbot wouldn’t be the starter. If we continue to run the four lines the way it was done last night, we should have a team full of guys feeling less winded and ready to play more, although I’d say Zuccarello may be a bit tired given the amount of space and the physicality of his game last night. The Rangers are currently tied for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with 36 points from a 17-18-2 record; Carolina and Philadelphia have each played in one less game. A win tonight, plus losses from Carolina, Philadelphia, and New Jersey, could move the Rangers into third place behind the Capitals.

Last night the Leafs faced the Detroit Red Wings and there was quite a stir in that game, this sums it up nicely. The Leafs enter Madison Square Garden tonight with a record of 18-16-4 (40 points) which is good enough for fifth in the Atlantic Division. Currently the Leafs are without Trevor Smith who was placed on injured reserve December 18 with a broken hand, and possibly Mason Raymond who is listed as day-to-day with a bruised foot. Frazer McLaren is out with a left eye injury as well. Tyler Bozak has been out most of this month and is aiming for a return after the Christmas break, here’s hoping that time schedule doesn’t get bumped up for tonight but all the best in his recovery! Another player out is Colton Orr who was also put on injured reserve early this month. With all that being said, Phil Kessel is always a threat for the leafs.With 33 points in 36 games there’s no doubt Kessel is one to watch. The sneaky James van Riemsdyk is another to watch. The newish addition to the Leafs, at center, is Peter Holland. The duo of JVR and Holland has proven monstrous for the Leafs as it has enabled JvR to move to the wing, his natural position, and Holland has added eight points in 16 games while averaging just under 13 minutes per game. Anytime Dion Phaneuf hits the ice against the Rangers we all think of this hit. I will always maintain that he did slightly leave his feet and the hit was dirty but his complete lack of regard towards Sauer afterward and the Leafs deciding to run the video of the hit during games really grinds my gears. But I believe in Karma, so I will leave it at that.

This game will be a typical “Original 6″ match-up with all the dram and excitement.

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Tags: Chris Kreider Maple Leafs Mats Zuccarello New York Rangers

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