Game Day Preview: Leafs vs. Panthers



Home ice hasn’t been too kind to the Florida Panthers so far this season as they have posted a 3-5-3 record at the Bank Atlantic Center. This coming while compiling a 7-4-1 record on the road as they continue to attempt to reverse their slow start to the season. When you’re playing in Florida though, home cooking isn’t always the same as the other more established hockey cities. With so many transplants, myself included, sometimes you feel as though you’re on the road.  This was pretty evident at Wednesday night’s Ranger game with at least fifty percent of the crowd cheering for the Rangers.

If I see another Ranger sweater I’m gonna light a match to it!

Tonight one of the original six and one of my favorite Canadian teams comes to Florida, The Toronto Maple Leafs. No matter how good or bad the Leafs are playing this is typically a sold out game here, and usually promises to have more than the usual excitement. Again however, it will seem as though the Panthers are playing in the Leafs building as the “Bank” will be filled with Leafs fans.  

The Panthers have been able to get points in eight straight games, going 5-0-3 in that span, but have lost two in a row in which they have played hard, but only for spurts.  Wednesday nights game against the Rangers saw the Panthers get only 2 shots on goal in the first period, both by the same player, St. Dominic.   He also scored the only Panther goal which came in the third period of a fairly sloppy affair.

The Leafs coming to town could be the prefect cure to prevent the Panthers from losing their fourth straight home game as they attempt to beat a Leafs team that has struggled to say the least.  The Panthers have won four straight against the Leafs, but I wouldn’t take this game lightly.  While the Leafs are sporting a 5-11-7 record, they are playing hard, but not getting any breaks, except for bad ones.

Leading the Leafs in goals with eleven is former Panther Niklas Hagman, which explains alot.  Tomas Kaberle leads the team in points with 24.  The Leafs are allowing the most goals per game with a 3.61 average and have the league’s worst penalty killing unit at 73.9 percent.  Could be the best medicine for the Panther power play that sits near the the bottom of the league and is having an enormous amount of trouble even getting shots.  Phil Kessel who had a quick start for the Leafs after his return earlier this month from shoulder surgery, is cold.  He has only one point in his lst four games.

Leafs General Manager Brian Burke had promised that the Leafs would be playing with more Truculence, Testoserone and Pugnacity.  Well actions speak louder than words, and you also have to have the players to back that up.

Lots of talk in Leafs Nation about the teams struggle’s and potential trades that might be made to turn things around and whether or not head coach Ron Wilson is on the hot seat.  Burkie and Wilson are pretty good buds, and Burke gave Ron the stamp of approval recently, so his firing is most likely not happening.  Burke has been a general manager since 1998, and the only coach he has fired was Mike Keenan.  Keenan amongst others was on a list of available coaches that would potentially be considered as a replacement for Wilson should he be let go.  No comment by me on that one. 

This will be the third game of the week for Florida and they also will travel to Nashville tomorrow night to play the Predators who are one of the hottest teams in the league.  I look for Tomas Vokoun to get the start tonight and Scott Clemmensen to play in Nashville tomorrow.  I know that Vokoun used to play in Nashville and that goes against the usual symmetry of things, but you have to play your number one guy against an Eastern Conference foe.

I feel bad for the Leafs and their struggles, but not tonight.  They can turn things around, but wait till after today’s game.  If they miss the playoffs which they probably will, it will be a very testy summer in Toronto.

This picture below will most likely come true sometime in April.

For more on the Leafs go to Pension Plan Puppets 

Note:  The Stripper has been sent to Rochester  by the Panthers.

Let’s Go Panthers!

Thanks for reading.