Here are five things to watch for…
Apparently a Hyman can return. Anyways, Hyman brings a lot of elements in his game that have been missing from the Leafs this year, both as a special teams player, puck retriever, and as a plucky try hard guy who *extreme hockey cliche voice* never takes a shift off.
He’ll be a nice addition to the Tavares line, although after an extended absence it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be in his early games of the season.
Anyone who thinks Islanders fans got it out of their system last year have no idea the depth of pettiness of a New York sports fan. This will never go away and Tavares will once be subjected to ridicule from the unwashed masses.
Unfortunately this return is coming at a time when arguably you could say that Tavares could be a whole lot better, and you could argue that the Islanders can’t really do much better than they’ve been doing. Those “we don’t need you” chants might ring a bit more true this go around, but hopefully Tavares lights them up anyway.
Yeah, basically just that. Kapanen probably has been a bit better of late, and adds a lot of value on his individual efforts, but remains a difficult piece to place on a regular line. Blinding straight forward speed makes up for a lot of other issues though, and he’s getting his shot with Hyman and Tavares. Perhaps Hyman was the missing piece to make Tavares-Kapanen work, but the lack of a playmaker definitely changes the style of play of that line. I think it can work, but it definitely involves a strategic overhaul from what they were doing with Marner.
As for Johnsson, well, perhaps I just want to set the bar higher than what the Leafs have been getting from him. He’s in an ideal situation with Matthews and Nylander, and only has 2 points in the past 5 games, when you could argue that Matthews and Nylander have been playing their best hockey of the season.
I wouldn’t rule out a couple of things with Johnsson:
- He might get a shot with Tavares if Kapanen doesn’t work out.
- He might get flipped with Moore on the third line, so the Matthews line can upgrade on puck retrieval and own zone play at the expense of some offensive talent.
There was a reason I had a sell high attitude on both Kapanen and Johnsson over the summer, and I can’t help but think I’d like having a talented defenseman more than either of them at the moment.
Death, Taxes, and Cody Ceci going where the puck won’t be. This is the lesson that Leafs fans are learning this year and one that Senators fans were only too happy to share with us while Toronto insisted a stronger partner would make a difference.
The problem seems to be on any given zone entry Cody Ceci will either pick up the wrong player, arrive late, or just simply be caught out of position and it’s frustrating as hell. Oddly enough, it’s the eye test that is telling us this because statistically he hasn’t been bad, though a lot of that comes from being the passenger on the top pairing and frequently playing with the top line.
With Matt Martin injured, a returning from injury Leo Komarov will carry the heavy burden of being the former Leaf who has to light up Toronto. There’s the small issue of Komarov not being any good, but hey, that didn’t stop Par Lindholm.
Game time is at 7:00 PM ET and can be seen on Sportsnet.