Wednesday, October 24 at 7:00 EST
Toronto Maple Leafs: 6-3-0
Winnipeg Jets: 5-2-1
There will be no shortage of firepower in this battle between two juggernauts. A possible Stanley Cup Final preview, these two teams are going to battle it out as they look to establish dominance over the premiere teams of the NHL. With the powerful offense of the Maple Leafs led by superstar Auston Matthews and the Jets defense backstopped by a Vezina finalist in Connor Hellebuyck, everyone watching this game will be in for a show.
The Maple Leafs have come into this season as favorites for a deep playoff run or even better, a Stanley Cup. With high expectations, there have been doubters and some questions regarding the team’s defensive abilities. So far, their lack of skill and depth on the blue line has not been a problem thanks to defenseman Morgan Reilly’s terrific performance thus far.
With 14 points through nine games played so far this season, Reilly has shut down any defensive liabilities with his own offensive skill. Reilly is also a plus four and has tallied six power play points. Definitely a player to watch in Toronto’s tilt with the high-flying Winnipeg Jets.
Beyond Reilly, the Maple Leafs superstars have been just as good. The obvious one, Auston Matthews, has amassed an incredible 10 goals in just nine games and shows no signs of slowing down. A constant threat to any opposing defense, Matthews can also share the puck as he has six assists for a total of 16 points in nine games. He leads the NHL in both goals and points as of Oct. 22.
The Maple Leafs are also 1st in the NHL in goals for as they have scored 34 total goals in just nine games which averages out to 3.7 goals per game. The Jets are going to have to be on top of their defensive game if they want to find any kind of success against this scoring power in Toronto.
For the Jets, they are going to have to follow the same principles as the Maple Leafs in order to win. Obviously, the goal should be to outscore the Maple Leafs but not only outscore them but do it faster than them. Get ahead before the Maple Leafs begin to dominate the game. However, anything is possible when one of your leading scorers is Patrick Laine. Scoring only two goals in his last five games, this could be the stage Laine has been looking for to finally breakout for the season.
In the battle between Matthews and Laine, this is an opportunity for Laine to prove that no matter the quality of the competition, he is a star player that can lead an offense on his own. As of right now, he falls way behind Matthews in terms of stats as Laine has recorded just three goals and two assists through eight games. Five points in eight games is still great production for a forward but it is going to have to be better to defeat a league leading team like Toronto.
In terms of defense, Connor Hellebuyck always gives his team a chance to win. Boasting a solid .914 save percentage as of Oct. 22, it is hard not to feel confident when there is a goalie of his caliber holding down the fort.
The Jets currently sit 14th in the NHL in goals for with 24 total goals scored this season however, the Jets are one of the better defensive teams in the league as they sit 8th in goals against with only 20.
The big question of this game is whether or not the Jets defensive game is good enough to successfully control Toronto’s high-powered offense. With Auston Matthews playing the best hockey of his young career right now it will be a difficult task. It is a possibility that the strategy for the Jets in this one is to simply score before the Maple Leafs can get going. With the speed of these two teams, scoring will be plentiful. The Jets need to get out in front before the Maple Leafs otherwise it will be too late to dig themselves out of the hole.
Prediction for this game is that Matthews overpowers Laine and creates offense for the Maple Leafs. Scoring a goal each, Matthews and John Tavares wreak havoc in the Jets zone. With Toronto jumping out to a two-goal lead in the first, the Jets can never claw their way back into this one despite the efforts of Laine and other top forwards. Maple Leafs take it 5-2.