Leafs playing against Chicago’s backup goalie
BY: Jeff Schneberk
BLACKHAWKS (23-6-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (16-14-3)
Last 10: Chicago 7-2-1; Toronto 2-6-2
Going back over the past 40 years at least, few matchups in the National Hockey League have been as intriguing as the one you will see on the CBC tonight.
There is the Leafs and the Canadiens, Leafs and Red Wings and several others, but the one tonight is probably going to go far beyond those tests.
The Leafs and the Blackhawks, two teams seemingly going in opposite directions, yet both stacked with more than enough hockey talent.
“We need our tops guys to be our tops guys,” says Head Coach Randy Carlyle this morning.
Leafs are coming off a pair of losses, one which should have gone their way (LA) and Thursday’s in St. Louis was not even close.
Despite a losing slide, Leafs haven’t won since last Saturday night against the Sens in Ottawa. They won before that game too (home vs Dallas). The only good news at this point is they are still above .500. the other good news is that the NHL season is a long one. There are a total of seven months in the NHL season. With about 6 ½ months of hockey packed in there…considering the season for Leafs at least goes until April 12.
A lot can happen over the period of 7 months. The Red Wings have been known to lose games, the Blackhawks are no different. So the same philosophy could be used to describe Toronto’s tough situation. Not long ago, the Hawks were in a three-game losing skid.
The last time Leafs met Chicago, they lost 3-1. Chicago being the defending Cup champs, probably should have been able to get by with way more than three goals, but they didn’t.
Tonight will also be the final game between Leafs and Hawks, unless of course they find a way to meet in the playoffs…
The Maple Leafs have lost three straight and need to stack some wins to hang onto their playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Team Scope: Blackhawks: Chicago is making it look like no big deal to have two goaltenders injured. Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin are out with lower-body injuries, but Finnish rookie Antti Raanta is filling in admirably, and the Blackhawks’ offense has put the pedal to the metal.
Maple Leafs: Toronto was swept in back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, with the most recent defeat a 6-3 loss at Scottrade Center. Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was pushed to the boiling point watching his team give up too many prime scoring chances to the Blues, who capitalized on enough to make the night miserable for Toronto.
“For our hockey club, tonight looked like we were totally brain-dead in a lot of areas,” Carlyle said afterward. “I don’t know any other way to describe it. We didn’t win enough of the down-low confrontations, they had a lot of freedom … look where they scored the goals from.”
The Maple Leafs played those games without defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who will return after serving a two-game suspension for an illegal hit. Then the ongoing joke was that Leafs play better, or at least allow fewer shots when their captain is not playing.
See Carlyle’s morning presser right here: http://video.mapleleafs.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=802&id=510631&lang=en
ANOTHER SUSPENSION: Toronto will be without forward David Clarkson, who was suspended for two games because of an illegal check to the head he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka on Thursday. Clarkson’s absence creates a hole at right wing on their third line that could be filled by Jerry D’Amigo or Carter Ashton.
Who’s hot: Chicago forward Patrick Kane has a seven-game point streak (two goals, 12 assists) and forward Patrick Sharp has scored at least one goal in three straight games (four goals, four assists). … Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel has four goals and six assists in the past 10 games.
Injury report: Crawford (lower body), Khabibulin (lower body) and forward Bryan Bickell (knee) are out for the Blackhawks. Bickell practiced Friday but is a week away, at least. … Former Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland.
Standings: Eventually they are going to drop down completely if they keep losing, they are starting to lose sight of Boston but then again Boston could start losing too. Leafs are 11 points out of top spot.