Suddenly, three vital players (two on the left defense) find themselves facing the back depths of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time this year as they face the Islanders, leaders of the Metro division, in the return long awaited John Tavares in New York (19h, TSN4).
The evening will certainly be moving for John Tavares. His return and the reception of the crowd will naturally be the center of the game (the accumulation was ridiculous and there will be a tribute during the match). Toronto would like to be rested and fit for that, but Jake Gardiner has been stuck for a back problem and Travis Dermott's shoulder injury last night will keep them in the near future, and the Leafs have played yesterday while the Islanders did not do it. t.
Calle Rosen – the Marlies striker among the defensemen with 44 points in 57 games – would probably have received a well-deserved call for it, but he was also injured, as was Andreas Borgman. The good news is that Rosen's injury is not considered serious and we could see it as soon as possible. In the meantime, Martin Marincin has received the emergency call back and will be paired with Justin Holl tonight, while Igor Ozhiganov will sit back to back after not playing more than a month before the night's game. last.
The focus will be on Mathew Barzal and Tavares – the former captain against the new face of the franchise – but for the second game in a row, the fourth line of the Leafs' new look really felt it last night. With the game out of reach after the Leafs had scored four unanswered goals in the second, Babcock gave them some extra changes and they took advantage of it. The depths of the Oilers have earned their reputation (frightful) and they have not had much resistance against a deep training Leafs (even without Nazem Kadri) who always has a speed and skill incomparable. The Islanders are certainly a deeper team than the Oilers in their last two lines – Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Valtteri Filppula – but all of these players are in the last five places among regular strikers in relative shooting attempts and the Leafs might be able to take advantage despite their tired legs.
The Islanders are a poorly qualified team that, to generalize, has been below average on the offensive and good at defense this season. They are 28th in attempts to throw and 11th in attempts to strike. They do a better job in critical ice – they are 10th in slot machine throws and 12th in slot machine throws.
It can be said that the most important factor of their surprise season, with a mandatory nod to the training of Barry Trotz (he wins wherever he goes), was to keep the goals. The Icelanders' Ice Sv on 5 out of 5 and every situation is at the top in the NHL. The duo of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss has career seasons, it is the least that can be said. They started at about the same number of games, 35 for Lehner and 31 for Greiss, both of which are just as impressive. Among the goalkeepers with at least 200 minutes this year, they are second and fourth goals respectively against the goals. Frederik Andersen is third in the category, but Garret Sparks will leave tonight in a back-to-back situation.
The big question for tonight: Can the Leafs dig deep for JT despite the unfavorable circumstances? It's not the end of the world with much bigger battles on the horizon in a month and a half, but it's a character test game by the standards of the regular season and I hope the Leafs will be better than their teammate when the Islanders came to Toronto earlier this year.
Quotes of the day of the game
John Tavares on what he is looking for tonight and how he spent his preparation for tonight:
I do not think it will be a very welcoming return. I'll just go out there and try to play the best I can and worry about what I can control.
The game is played between the boards, so I'm just going to put on my skates and leave as if in all my life.
You can only control what you can control and I just try to be open and honest about my decision. In the end, that's what it is. I just went to play hockey and try to help the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On the advice that his friends and family gave him about this experience:
Many people have asked me for help: "Try to focus on what you can control and play. You have given a lot here and you can not worry about what's going on around you. You just have to go and be yourself. I have received a lot of support from many people.
On the comprehensive response and support he received from good friends, former Islanders teammates, about his decision:
It was probably the most difficult decision I ever had in my life. It took me a long time because of the difficulty. I really did not know what I wanted to do before making my decision. To understand, I really appreciate a lot and many of them are very good friends and people who helped me a lot on and off the ice. I thank them for their support, not just coming to my wedding, but I think, over the years, as a maturing player and becoming who I am today.
Mike Babcock on how Tavares handled the creation of this game:
This is not a kid. He has been around. What he did, it's make a decision and make a decision for his family and for himself. We totally respect that and it's a huge part of our franchise. We want to play hard here today. We did not play well against the Islanders last time and we want to play better tonight. It's two good teams. It should be very amusing.
Babcock on fans response to Tavares decision:
People come to me all the time and say, "I'm a fan of the Red Wings." I say, "Me too." John is a fan of the Islanders and will be for life. He spent a lot of time here and did everything in his power. Now he's doing the same thing for the Leafs.
Babcock on the impact of Tavares since his arrival in the Leafs:
Most importantly, as good as the player is, he is a better person and a better professional. When you look at the group of young people we need to be influenced … It does not say a whole lot, it comes, it does it every day and makes us a better franchise. This is a guy from Toronto. He is proud to be here. He treats people and fans properly. He treats players and staff properly and has a huge impact each day just by being himself.
Babcock on the possible reaction of Islander fans:
The most important thing for me is that when you pay your money, you can say what you want. I firmly believe in life that you always want to be proud of yourself and the way you behave, simply. I think we've all had moments in our lives where things are eluding us and you can not go back. You can not recover them. I know that my wife regularly gives me a good tightening on this. I just think it's important to manage well. It will be a good game of hockey tonight with good teams and good people from both sides. This should be very fun.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
# 18 Andreas Johnsson – # 34 Auston Matthews – # 24 Kasperi Kapanen
# 11 Zach Hyman – # 91 John Tavares – # 16 Mitch Marner
# 12 Patrick Marleau – # 29 William Nylander – # 28 Connor Brown
# 42 Trevor Moore – # 33 Frederik Gauthier – # 63 Tyler Ennis
# 44 Morgan Rielly – # 2 Ron Hainsey
# 8 Jake Muzzin – # 22 Nikita Zaitsev
# 52 Martin Marincin – # 3 Justin Holl
# 40 Garret Sparks
# 31 Frederik Andersen
Injured: Nazem Kadri (concussion), Jake Gardiner (back), Travis Dermott (shoulder)
Striped: Nic Petan, Igor Ozhiganov
New York Islanders Projected Lines
# 27 Anders Lee – # 29 Brock Nelson – # 7 Jordan Eberle
# 16 Andrew Ladd – # 13 Matt Barzal – # 12 Josh Bailey
# 18 Anthony Beauvillier – # 51 Valtteri Filppula – # 47 Leo Komarov
# 17 Matt Martin – # 53 Casey Cizikas – # 15 Cal Clutterbuck
# 2 Nick Leddy – # 55 Johnny Boychuk
# 3 Adam Pelech – # 6 Ryan Pulock
# 4 Thomas Hickey – # 25 Devon Toews
# 40 Robin Lehner
# 1 Thomas Greiss