The Maven's Haven

  • Thursday, January 24, 2013

    Mave's Saves: Islanders at Toronto Preview

    ISLANDERS RECORD: 1-1-0.

    THEME: HITTING THE ROAD RUNNING

    PLUS: Michael Grabner not only is his old, speedy self but seems more confident than ever. He's averaging at least three scoring chances per game. Keith Aucoin and David Ullstrom have added an offensive touch in the bottom six. Each has been a pleasant surprise. Both Evgeni Nabokov in goal and John Tavares up front appear capable of carrying the club when necessary. Penalty-killers have yet to allow a goal against.

    MINUS: Matt Moulson's famed scoring touch has eluded him so far. Defensively, the Isles backliners get a bit too cute in their own end. Watch those mistakes!

    EVEN: Although he hasn't been on the score sheet, off-season acquisition Brad Boyes has been an offensive threat as hoped. Brian Strait, so far, looks as if he could be the 2012-2013 version of Dylan Reese as an able depth defender. Mark Streit's offense has been up to par but needs to shore up his game behind the blue line.

    CHALLENGE: The trick -- as Nabby told me -- is to build off the win on Monday and develop momentum for the five-game road trip. The Leafs will be "up" following their Wedneday night win in Pittsburgh. Toronto has a young and reckless team. Coach Jack Capuano must focus on stopping Phil Kessel, new Leaf James van Riemsdyk and youthful Nazem Kadri.

    FAN COMMENT: From Michael Leboff of Rockville Centre, N.Y. "The effort was exponentially better in Game Two but not where it needs to be if a streak is to be attained. If the Isles can turn in a better defensive effort in Toronto, the road trip will be off to a good start."

    FOUR KEYS TO BEATING TORONTO

    1. Breakouts must be crisper, beginning with a mistake-free start.

    2. The Leafs offensive guns -- Kadri, Kessel and van Riemsdyk have to be defused.

    3. Put pressure on either of Toronto's inexperienced goalies, Ben Scrivens or James Reimer.

    4. Tavares and Moulson must have big games before their hometown families and friends.

    FOUR MATCH-UPS TO WATCH

    1. John Tavares vs. Dion Phaneuf: The Isles ace must be able to chip pucks past the hard-hitting captain; and avoid his devastating checks.

    2. Travis Hamonic-Andrew MacDonald vs. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk: The most reliable Isles Dmen must shut down the most dangerous Leafs. With Joffrey Lupul out with an injury, Toronto will rely heavily on Kessel and JVR.

    3. Mikhail Grabovski vs. Frans Nielsen: The second-line centers will be counted on in all situations for their respective teams.

    4. Islanders Penalty-Killing vs. Leafs Power Play: New York is only one of two teams in the NHL that has yet to relinquish a power play goal -- in its first two games.

    VISIT THE ISLANDERS TEAM PAGE

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