The Blue and White Blog Game 3: The Haves vs. The Hab Nots

 

Leafs are 2-0 on the season after a nice 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets last night. Good start but not unexpected. There was a lot to like in last night’s game. Cody Ceci actually looked kind of good and scored a goal. Don’t hate that one bit. The boys making the big bucks led the charge and the Marn Dog racked up two goals and one assist like the $10.89 mil man he is.

My buddy Ben is a die hard Blue Jackets fan and drove all the way to Ohio to see last night’s game live. Tough luck to travel all the way for that game. To watch the Leafs of all teams dummy your team back into Nikolai Zherdev era level irrelevance must be infuriating. I hope I’m wrong for the sake of those plucky little Blue Jackets. Some things you just hate to see.

Also of note, apparently the Leafs are giving out a Raptors championship game ball to the player of the game after each win. As a die hard fan of both the Raptors and Maple Leafs I’m completely on board for this new tradition. Below is a clip following Toronto’s home win versus Ottawa Wednesday night.

 

I’m not a not a conspiracy guy but, is Auston Matthews the possible love child to Steve Nash? Exhibit A: see the handles. Exhibit B: Steve Nash did play hockey growing up. Exhibit C: Auston Matthews is from Arizona and Steve Nash played point guard for the Phoenix Suns in the 90’s. I’m just connecting a few dots here.

Also does Auston look like hung up on the captaincy snub?

The Game

Last year Toronto had a 3-0-1 record against the Habs outscoring them by a combined total of 18-14. Any improvements made to Montreal this offseason were largely internal. More responsibility is going to be placed on the shoulders of youngsters Kotkaniemi, Suzuki, Lehkonen, Mete and Fleury.

This looks to be Toronto’s first real test of the season (I may have given Columbus a little too much credit in yesterday’s blog). Last season Montreal only missed the playoffs by 2 points and, with the seventh youngest roster in the NHL (average age 27.4 according to Roster Resource), they’re definitely on an upswing.

Here’s a look at Toronto’s lineup tonight at home versus the Canadiens:

The first thing I noticed is that the fourth line continues the shuffle. Spezza gets a rest after a solid game in Columbus. It just doesn’t look like the guy will ever get the chance to actually play a game in Toronto. Say what you will about Babs but it looks like the Leafs actually have five solid options for the fourth line and the first few guys to blink will be on the outside looking in. Even though we’re in the regular season every game is a tryout for these guys. That’s a decent problem to have.

Players of Interest

Carey Price

Image result for carey price dart

At 32 years old Price is still definitely an All-Star goalie. Still a top 10 goalie eve. But it’s been a while since he’s been considered “elite”. The last season he had a save percentage above .925 while playing more than 40 games was 2014-15 where he tossed up a league-leading .933 mark winning the Hart and Vezina. A return to that form for Price would like mean a return to the playoffs for Montreal. In a crowded Atlantic division that’s a scary thought.

Michael Hutchinson

First game of the season for Toronto’s newly anointed back-up. Hutchison has to instil more confidence than Garrett Sparks did. Old Sparksy had flashes of NHL-level competence but for the most part he was shaky at best. More stability in goalie depth would do wonders on Andersen’s workload.

I will say that I would’ve preferred that they start Hutchinson last night to save Andersen for the better Canadiens team. I guess the thinking is you want your starter to lock-up the more winnable game in the back-to-back and see if your back-up steals one. Either way Hutchinson needs to look good to shake the Sparks Scaries.

The Rat Pack

AKA Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher. Both of them are some sort of Matt Cooke-Brad Marchand-Darcy Tucker hybrids. They’re infuriating to watch as fans from the opposing team and every time they take a swipe at someone in a scrum it becomes bulletin board material. Last year I drafted Gallagher and Domi in fantasy hockey because they both plummeted down the rankings because of mediocre 2017-18 seasons. They were fantastic and the fact that I got any satisfaction from their goal scoring rotted me to my core. I hate these guys.

Final Thoughts

Here’s a quick power ranking on NHL teams that I hate:
1. Boston
2. Montreal
3. Carolina (just bugs me that they have a team (even in last year’s “Storm Surge” season they were 28th in average attendance))
4. New York Islanders (their fans on Twitter continued to light up Tavares’ spot last year + thought they were the cock of the walk for one good regular season)
5. Ottawa (bumped up to #3 when they’re actually relevant)

Any time the Leafs beat one of these teams I just feel better about things. Cheers to the first HNIC of the year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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