The Maple Leafs ended a three-game losing streak Saturday with an exciting 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins. But the Leafs has allowed five or more goals in each of their last three games. Meanwhile, the Islanders lost in overtime Saturday night to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Isles are now 0-1-1 in their last two games. The Isles allowed 10 goals in those two games against two teams out of playoff hunt.
Thomas Greiss will be back in goal for the Islanders. The German-born goalie sports a 15-8-3 record with a 2.35 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Greiss has played very well since becoming the undisputed number one goalie for the Isles.
Toronto will turn to Frederik Andersen in net. Andersen won his 22nd game of the season on Saturday. He has a 2.67 GAA and a save percentage of .917 playing in front of the inconsistent Toronto defense. Andersen has won three of his last four decisions.
Many eyes will be on the matchup between the respective teams’ franchise players: John Tavares and Auston Matthews. Tavares comes into the game red-hot, having scored nine goals and 16 points since Jan 13. Matthews, meanwhile, earned three assists against Boston Saturday although he was held without a point in the three games prior to that contest.
Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Islanders
Barclays Center – 7:00 PM EST
Broadcast Channels: MSG-Plus 2 and SN
2016-17 Season Series: Oct 30, 2016: Islanders 5, Maple Leafs 1
New York Islanders – 22-18-10 – 54 points
Home Record: 16-8-6
Hot Players: Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Nick Leddy
Key Injuries: Travis Hamonic, Cal Clutterbuck
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Ryan Strome
Andrew Ladd – Alan Quine – Jason Chimera
Shane Prince – Casey Cizikas – Nikolay Kulemin
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey – Adam Pelech
Calvin de Haan – Dennis Seidenberg
Toronto Maple Leafs – 24-17-9 – 57 points
Road Record: 12-9-6
Hot Players: William Nylander, Mitchell Marner, James van Riemsdyk
Key Injuries: None
Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozek – Mitchell Marner
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Connor Brown
Matt Martin – Ben Smith – Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Rielly – Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick
Martin Marincin – Roman Polak
1) Scoring first is important for both of these teams. The Maple Leafs are 19-5-5 when taking a 1-0 lead in games while they are just 5-12-4 when the opposition scores first. The Islanders are 16-6-6 when scoring first and 6-12-4 when falling behind early.
2) The Islanders will have their hands full trying to stop the Leafs potent power play. The Islanders PK has been better of late, but it still ranks just 18th in the league. The Maple Leafs power play ranks second with a 23.5 percent success rate. Nazem Kadri leads the team with 10 power-play goals.
3) Neither of these teams shines in the third period. The Leafs are dreadful, having been outscored 51-42 in the third period this season. The Islanders are only marginally better, scoring 53 goals while allowing 57.
4) John Tavares usually plays his best against Toronto, possibly due to being seen by his friends and family back home. In 24 career games against the Leafs, the Islanders captain has 12 goals and 26 points including an assist in this year’s meeting.
5) Defense has been a real problem for the Leafs all season. They have allowed 40 or more shots on goal in eight games already. Surprisingly, the Maple Leafs are 4-3-1 in those games.
Both of these teams are fighting for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders cannot afford another loss after earning just one point against Detroit and Carolina this past weekend. The Isles got back into the playoff picture with their 6-0-1 streak, but need to sustain consistent play to stay in contention.
The Leafs are just two points behind the Flyers in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, but Toronto has three games in hand. Of course, those games only help if they earn points in them. With a win, the Leafs could pull to within a point of the idle Flyers. If the Islanders win in regulation, they would be just one point behind Toronto in the standings.
Both teams need this game. Expect a high-scoring and exciting hockey game at Barclays tonight.