The Blue and White Blog Game 5: Rumble in the Atlantic
Monday night’s game versus St. Louis was a tough one. I actually thought that it was Toronto’s most complete games so far but sometimes you just lose to good teams. One of the silver linings from the loss is the continued solid play of William Nylander.
He looks flat out dynamic. For all of the heat he took last year and the praise that Marner raked in, Nylander looks like he’ll be way more bang for Toronto’s buck. Just check out this goal from Monday:
Just flat out silky.
Anyways, take the loss and we’re on to the Lightning.
The Leafs and Lightning have been pencilled in as playoff teams for year’s end by pundits and fans alike. Both teams are fast and skilled with great goaltending. The difference lies on the blueline where Tampa boasts one of the NHL’s most talented six pack.
I do think that Toronto may be able match them as the season goes along considering the talent that they possess with Barrie, Rielly and Muzzin. It’ll all come down to how Ceci plays and how the bottom pairing shakes down.
Both team’s have an abundance of top-end talent but Tampa Bay’s core is arguably the best in the league. No other team has a Hart winner (Kucherov), three 40 goal scorers (Kucherov, Stamkos and Point), a Norris Trophy finalist (Hedman) and a Vezina winning goalie (Vasilevsky). This season is a failure for them if it doesn’t end in a Stanley Cup. Those are their expectations.
Player’s of Interest
Tampa’s Left Side
Honestly take a look at who Tampa has lined up on the left side of their blueline pairings:
Based on the Corsica ratings on Daily Faceoff all three are in the top 30 of left shot defensemen. No other team can boast such depth and it’s one of the reasons Tampa is such a wagon. At all times they have one of Hedman, McDonagh and Sergachev on the ice. All three can move the puck very well and be used to shut down other team’s top lines.
Summer of 2019 RFA Battle
Linemates on the 2015-16 Canadian World Junior team, Point and Marner found themselves as two of the most talked about players this past offseason. Both were restricted free agents looking for significant pay days. Both had career years in 2018-19 with Marner racking up 94 points and Point with 41 goals and 92 points. Both took the whole offseason by hostage and waited out for their respective deals. Marner signed a six year deal with a $10.893 mil AAV and Point signed a three year bridge deal carrying a $6.75 mil AAV.
While the Marner contract has drawn a ton of criticism, it’s time to put up or shut up for both he and Point. Now that they’re not on rookie deals there’s way more pressure for them to produce. The Marner and Tavares line has gotten off to a relatively slow start and Point is playing in is first game of the season tonight after being activated from the IR. Look for both Marner and Point to be pushing hard tonight.
Freddy The Goat
That’s two goals in four games for The Goat. Nobody mistakes the guy for a world beater but he’s a thick boi who can win a few key faceoffs. He’s been a solid fourth liner so far in his short career and I think he can make some beautiful music with Spezza this year.
During the Brian Burke/Dave Nonis eras, some pretty careless draft day comparisons were thrown around. Brad Ross was the next Darcy Tucker, the Leafs had Lucic dreams for Tyler Biggs. Gauthier was no exception. I distinctly remember someone throwing a Patrice Bergeron comp when he was draft, I just can’t remember who. But at the very least here’s what Craig Button thought on daft day:
“I HAVE WATCHED FREDERIK FOR ALMOST 2 YEARS NOW AND HE HAS ALWAYS IMPRESSED ME. HE PLAYED MIDGET LAST SEASON (HIS TEAM LOST IN THE TELUS CUP MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP TO RED DEER IN AN EPIC FINAL) BECAUSE HE WAS CONSIDERING GOING THE NCAA ROUTE AND WAS CONDITIONALLY GRANTED ACCEPTANCE TO HARVARD UNIVERSITY. HE’S BIG, HE’S SMART AND HE MAY NOT RUN YOU OVER BUT HE ASSERTS WITH HIS SIZE & TAKES ADVANTAGE. HE IS A STRONG TWO-WAY PLAYER WHO PLAYS ALL SITUATIONS. HE REMINDS ME OF KEITH PRIMEAU. HE HAS NOT COME OUT OF NOWHERE, YOU JUST HAVEN’T HEARD OF HIM BECAUSE HE WASN’T ON A ‘MAINSTREAM’ RADAR. CENTERS LIKE HIM ARE RARE AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT HE COULD BE A TOP 10 PLAYER BEFORE LONG. DIFFERENT PLAYER THAN HUBERDEAU BUT SIMILAR SCENARIO AS YOU POINT OUT.” (Maple Leafs Hot Stove, 2013)
You heard it straight from The Goat’s mouth: #ontheroadto50
Remember That Leaf?
Drafted by the Leafs in the third round of the 2013 draft, Verhaeghe was able to grab the fourth line centre job for Tampa out of camp. After four OHL seasons with the Ice Dogs and five seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, Verhaeghe has finally made the NHL. The Leafs traded him in 2015 when they shipped Verhaeghe out to the Islanders with Matt Finn, Taylor Beck, Tom Nilsson and Christopher Gibson for Michael Grabner. It was a training camp trade used to shed contracts as the Leafs were sitting at the max 50 right before the season. Of the players Toronto traded only Verhaeghe and goalie Chris Gibson are the only two still playing in North America.
Last year Verhaeghe lit up the AHL with Syracuse Crunch scoring 34 goals and 82 points in 76 games. The Lightning might have something here. While it would be nice to still have him in the system, the tanking moves made in 2015-16 led us on the road to Auston Matthews so no harm no foul here.
So far the Leafs are 1-0-1 in divisional match-ups. Both Toronto (2-1-1) and Tampa (1-1-1) aren’t off to the fastest of starts. Both will look for a big win tonight. It’ll go a long way for the Leafs to hold serve at home against a divisional rival. If Toronto hopes to grab the Atlantic one seed and avoid the Bruins in the first round this spring, a win tonight would be huge.