Toronto Maple Leafs: Tavares Returns Home in What May Be the Toughest Test Yet

Louis PisanoAnalyst IOctober 18, 2010

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 23: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrates scoring at 12:17 of the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nassau Coliseum on December 23, 2009 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been playing a truly gritty brand of hockey that’s paying early dividends.

The Buds sit atop not only their division nor just the conference but the whole of the NHL and are still undefeated on the year.

They are winning these games with timely goaltending, balanced scoring, and physical play along with a team driven tenacity.

They have seemingly bought into head coach Ron Wilson’s system and are seeing results with much better special teams play and overall success.

They will host hometown product John Tavares and his New York Islanders Monday night at the ACC after having a rare weekend off in what should be another measuring mark in this young season for Toronto.

The Islanders (2-1-2) have been playing a very similar style of hockey to Toronto though with slightly different results, though they’ve been in every game right up until the final buzzer.

Toronto’s top line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg have been potent offensively as was expected.

But second line winger Clarke MacArthur is leading the Leafs in the goal scoring department with five while playing with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin.

At the other end of the rink Monday night the Islanders will ice-AHL veteran PA Parenteau, NHL veteran Doug Weight and last years surprise player for the Islanders Matt Moulson who’ve had some good chemistry at times this year.

Josh Bailey leads the team in points (7) and is tied with Blake Comeau for goals on the team with three.

Add to that last year’s number one overall draft pick and Toronto Native John Tavares who has one goal in two games this year recently returned to the line up and should have quite a entourage in the audience.

Both teams have been playing with a bee in their bonnet so to speak and both teams defense cores have been tallying points.

But what may separate the two and should be the determining factor at the ACC is the play between the pipes.

Whether the Leafs give "The Monster" goalie Jonas Gustavsson a back to back start though more than likely they will return J.S. Giguere to the blue ice both have shown flashes of brilliance and dug deep when the heat was on.

The Islanders oft injured (understatement) goalie Rick Dipietro and veteran Dwayne Roloson have split duty so far, though Roloson has certainly been the better of the two.

If we can for a moment look back to last November another rare Monday game as well in Toronto against these same Islanders Roloson turned away 58 shots in a 4-3 OT win.

 So just on a hunch and with his recent form I’d expect to see him between the pipes for the Isle.

It’s going to be a heck of a battle as both teams have some momentum early but with home ice and a rejuvenated Leafs Nation behind them the blue and white will spoil the home coming party for Tavares and stay undefeated.

Go Leafs Go!