The Toronto Maple Leafs have had quite an opening week to the 2016-17 NHL season. They have honored the past, played a few games with the present team, and have gotten a glimpse into the future with the young kids on the roster.
The Maple Leafs will be tested this week with having to play three games away from the ACC. On Wednesday night, they will take on the Winnipeg Jets, then head to Minnesota to face the Wild on Thursday night, and finish up the week playing the Blackhawks in Chicago. It isn’t exactly the easiest schedule, but they are the games that are on the schedule.
On Wednesday night, the Leafs will visit the Jets in Winnipeg, where they’ll be playing in front of a loud crowd. The Jets do have two decent lines that can put up some points. They’ll have to keep an eye on Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner among other Leafs players. If Winnipeg can get some pucks towards the net then they have a good shot at winning the game especially since Frederick Andersen hasn’t been playing at his best so far. Andersen will also give up rebound chances so the Jets will want to have someone around the net trying to get to those chances.
Toronto will need its veteran players to step up a little bit since they’ve really been relying on the kids. If they can shut down the top two lines of the Jets then they’ll have a chance to win the game. They need to capitalize on their power play chances since the Jets have allowed some goals while shorthanded. The most important thing for the Maple Leafs to do is to get the first goal and take the loud, boisterous Winnipeg crowd out of the game early.
The Leafs will face their first back-to-back situation this year when they play the Minnesota Wild Thursday night after playing the Jets the previous night. The Wild will need to make sure that their defense can get pucks through with traffic in front of the Leafs’ net. The Leafs have a ton of speed so it’s important for the Wild to try to keep them from using that speed to create plays, especially in transition.
Toronto will want to capitalize on their scoring chances since the Wild don’t give up much during the course of a game. One way to create more is to use their speed through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. If Toronto can manage to get a lead then the team will want to build on it since Minnesota has lost some games when trailing after the second period. James van Riemsdyk and company will want to watch out for the Wild’s defensive corps because they can contribute on the offensive side of the puck. The Maple Leafs will also need to try to keep the top line off the board for the Wild.
On Saturday, Auston Matthews will visit the United Center for the first time. The Hawks will need to take advantage of the fact that the Leafs are a young team and their roster has a lot of veterans on it. Chicago needs to establish a forecheck and force the defense to turn the puck over and make Andersen work, but be careful that the Leafs don’t get too many chances in transition. This would be a good game for the veterans to get going for the Blackhawks.
The Leafs will need to get pucks to the net with traffic in front of Chicago’s goalies because if they can see the puck then they’ll make the save. The penalty kill of the Blackhawks hasn’t been exactly stellar so Toronto needs to take advantage of its power play opportunities. The Maple Leafs will need to get that first goal to take the crowd out of the game. If they can manage to keep the Hawks’ top two lines in check then they should have a good shot at coming out of Chicago with a win.