Toronto Maple Leafs (23-28-4) at New York Islanders (35-18-1)
|Date & Time||Thursday February 12, 2015, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: New York Islanders -210 / Toronto Maple Leafs +188 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
It’s amazing when you watch the New York Islanders on the penalty kill and then realize that they’re leading the Metropolitan Division and have been one of the better teams in the National Hockey League this season. This is a club that is dead last on the penalty kill, executing just 72.5% of the time on the season. Head coach Jack Capuano doesn’t seem to want to talk about the issues with anybody, but whatever he’s doing behind the scenes it clearly isn’t working. New York continues to find ways to win games in spite of it, but at some point that’s going to catch up with them, especially in the post season. Tuesday night was a perfect example of how New York’s season has gone to this point as they allowed two power play goals to the Edmonton Oilers but still found a way to come away with a victory. After Anders Lee took a penalty in the first period and the Oilers capitalized, it was Colin McDonald who got the Islanders even at 1-1. Josh Bailey’s ninth goal of the season midway through the second period gave New York a 2-1 lead before another penalty led to the second Oilers goal of the night. The score remained tied late into the third when Casey Cizikas finally broke it with his fifth goal of the season to lift the Islanders to a 3-2 lead. It allowed the Islanders to maintain their hold on first place in the division despite another game where they were forced to answer the same questions afterward. This is way more than a minor problem at this point and it’s one that will most likely cost the Islanders when it matters most if they don’t find a way to make some changes and improve. Jaroslav Halak stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced to improve his record to 29-11-0 on the season. Thursday night’s game is the second of a four game home stand for the Islanders and is one they need to win before Columbus and the Rangers come in for a couple of divisional games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs come to town off yet another loss after they fell by a final score of 5-4 to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. It was a fairly spirited effort from the Maple Leafs despite the loss and they got to see some very strong play from some young players like Morgan Rielly. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk barely played in this one and the Toronto defense was an absolute sieve, but at least the Maple Leafs found a way to make this game competitive as they continued to battle back despite being behind. Trailing 2-0 late in the first period it was Rielly who took the puck off a face off in the offensive zone with Toronto on the power play and fired a wrist shot top corner to get the Leafs on the board. Stepahane Robidas finally scored his first goal of the season in the second period to get Toronto back within 3-2. The Maple Leafs had a chance to get even with the man advantage but surrendered a short handed goal and trailed 4-2 heading into the third. Rielly would add his second of the night just 20 seconds into the period and Daniel Winnik would tie the game before the Leafs and their porous defense would allow another goal that proved to the game winner. James Reimer looked pretty awful all night long but it’s hard for anyone to look good in front of that defense.
It’s hard to figure out what Toronto is trying to do under their interim head coach but whatever it is it clearly isn’t working. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the Leafs to catch the Islanders in a look ahead spot with a couple of divisional match ups on deck, but if they don’t they better hope the Islanders take about 10 penalties in this one because that will probably be the only way they have a chance to beat them.