Predicting How the Toronto Maple Leafs Will Play the Rest of November
After suffering their first two-game losing streak of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to bounce back against the St. Louis Blues heading into Thursday night. Take a look at the rest of the November schedule and you will see that the Leafs have a relatively light schedule the rest of the way. This is a perfect opportunity for the Leafs to break out and put some pressure on the rest of the Eastern Conference.
At 9-5-1 the Leafs have already put themselves in a great starting position, now they need to maintain that heading into the middle part of the season. In this slideshow we’ll go game-by-game and see what the Leafs can do to come out of the month with a great record.
Thurs., Nov. 10th Visiting St. Louis Blues
In order to avoid a “slump” they will need to come out firing against the Blues. Jaroslav Halak has not looked good so far this year, going 2-6-0 with a .879 save percentage, and backup goaltender Brian Elliot, who is 5-1-0 on the year, was never that great against the Leafs in his days as the Ottawa Senators main netminder.
The Leafs should improve their record to 10-5-1 after this game.
Sat., Nov. 12th Hosting Ottawa Senators
The Leafs beat the Sens at home on Oct 8th, 6-5. They then lost in Ottawa a few weeks later on Oct 30th, 3-2.
At home the Leafs are a stingy 5-2-1 which means they are finally starting to use the home ice to their advantage.
The Maple Leafs are a much better team statistically then Ottawa. The Sens were able to string together six straight wins in October, but have yet to win a game in November. If The Maple Leafs' defense is up to the task they should pound the Sens at the ACC and take back the lead in the battle of Ontario and move their record to 12-5-1.
Tues., Nov. 15th Hosting Phoenix Coyotes
With a second straight home game, the Maple Leafs should be well rested and eager to take on the Coyotes. The Coyotes are putting together a decent season but they aren’t a team that looks capable of competing at this level all year.
They have a few notable stars in Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Martin Hanzal to name a few, and goalie Mike Smith has put together a nice season with a 2.36 GAA to go with a 6-2-2 record. It will be a tough fight for the Maple Leafs, but their top two lines are starting to look like they can handle any defense and the Maple Leafs should be able to string together their third straight win here moving to 13-5-1.
Thurs., Nov. 17th Visiting Nashville Predators
The Leafs' first road game in over a week against a second straight Western opponent. For whatever reason, the Leafs have been able to handle some of the better Western teams over the years and to this point in the year, they have put together a 2-0-1 record against teams from that conference.
The Nashville Predators are barely hanging onto a playoff spot and at the moment are under heavy pressure when it comes to how many of their free agents will return next year. A decent playoff run should help the team and their fans.
The Maple Leafs, though, have done very well against some of the better goaltending in the league this year already beating the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price (twice), Marc-Andre Fluery and Martin Brodeur. They should be able to add Pekka Rinne to that list and pull their record up to 14-5-1.
Sat., Nov. 19th Hosting Washington Capitals
By my predictions this makes it four straight wins for the Buds. They will return home to face a very good, very tough Capitals team. Washington right now sits in third place in the East, just one point behind the Leafs.
There’s no telling where these two teams will be when they meet, but for argument's sake let’s say they are still neck and neck. It will be a big game for both teams and if the Maple Leafs have James Reimer back in net at this point I would have to give it to them as it will be a home game and a Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada game in which they have only lost one all year. I know it doesn’t matter what day they play on but there’s always the superstition.
If Reimer is not back yet, then I would have to lean more towards the Capitals and their high-powered offense. It honestly feels like a coin flip at this point, but again it is a home game and the Maple Leafs have been able to come up big against some very tough teams. I think they can at least get a point in this one and move their record to 14-5-2.
Sun., Nov. 20th Visiting Carolina Hurricanes
The last time the Leafs played on a Sunday after a Saturday game was at the end of October and the result was a 3-2 loss to Ottawa. In this case, they will have to travel from Toronto to Carolina and face a gritty Hurricanes team.
While the ‘Canes are not having their best year so far, they are still dangerous. And for the Leafs to play back-to-back against two formidable opponents and come out with points in both games will be very challenging.
You can’t win them all and I think the Leafs will drop this one falling to 14-6-2 marking just their third loss of the month.
Tues., Nov. 22nd Visiting Tampa Bay Lightning
The Maple Leafs road trip continues down the East Coast with a stop in Tampa. The Lightning were the Eastern conference semifinalists last year. As of right now they sit in eighth place in the East, although only three points back of second place Toronto.
While they do have a different roster than last year, the Lightning still has the main pieces in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Any of these guys are just plain scary when the puck is on their stick and the Leafs will have to watch out for them. However, goaltending has been a bit of an issue for them as neither Mathieu Garon nor Dwayne Roloson has found any consistency with records of 3-2-1 and 4-3-1, respectively.
By this point in the year, though, they should have their goaltending situation figured out and I can see the Leafs dropping this one as well, falling to 14-7-2.
Fri., Nov. 25th Visiting Dallas Stars
The Maple Leafs road trip takes them across one time zone and into the state of Texas to face a surprising Dallas Stars team. With a record of 11-3-0 the Stars are first in the Western Conference with 22 points, and they have a very talented roster with the likes of Jaime Benn, Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson and the resurgence of Sheldon Souray.
Kari Lehtonen has been stellar in net with a 2.13 GAA and a record of 11-1-0. (The Stars only other two losses have come at the hands of former Maple Leaf Andrew Raycroft). But, again, the Leafs for some reason come up gunning against the better goaltenders and they will have had three days off in which to recover.
I can see them pulling out at least a point in this game and continue to move up in the standings with a record of 14-7-3.
Sun., Nov. 27th Visiting Anaheim Ducks
The last stop on this seven day, four game road trip for Toronto. By this point they should be accustomed to life on the road and again they are facing a team from the West. Not to mention this is Brian Burkes' former team and you know that he will be asking for a little extra effort from the Maple Leafs in this one (funny how GM’s can’t ask for a little extra effort in every game isn’t it?).
The Ducks have only managed 13 points so far this season, which is strange considering the offensive power they posses in Cory Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. However, they have all had slow starts to the year.
If that continues to this point in the season, the Maple Leafs should walk right through the Ducks and even have time to visit Disney Land while pulling their record to 15-7-3.
Wed., Nov. 30th Hosting Boston Bruins
It’s the last game of the month and by these predictions the Leafs are in GREAT shape (if it turns out to be accurate I may start playing pro-line again). This will be another showdown that catches everyone's attention. The Leafs have been blown out 13-2 in two game against the Bruins this year and this game will be the first of a home and home against Boston.
The Bruins seem to have finally woken up after their Stanley Cup hang over the past few games and there’s no doubt they could clearly keep that momentum going. The Maple Leafs will just need to rely on their strong offense and play decent defense as has been the case most of the year. In the games against Boston none of those things happened.
Maybe by this point, Reimer will be back in net. He will be the third Leafs goalie the Bruins face this year. If all goes well throughout the month and the Leafs play to as predicted I’m sure they can overcome this Boston team as they did last year when they won the last four games against them.
A victory in this one would pull the Leafs to 16-7-3 which would be an amazing goal to reach for. Only time will tell if they can pull it off and Leafs fan should, by all rights, remain optimistic about it. But a great record heading into the heart of the season can only do wonders for a team that is known for being better in the second half than the first.