Edmonton visits the World Champions, Toronto takes on the Blues and Florida visits Winnipeg. Frank Doyle previews the action.
The light still burns bright in Edmonton, where the Oilers have put their recent seasons in the basement of the Northwest Division well behind them in the early days of the 2011-‘12 season. The Oilers followed their loss at Phoenix with a 3-1 win at Montreal, and won’t be intimidated by their NHL betting underdog status at Boston tonight.
Edmonton is a dog because Boston has well and truly shaken off its post Stanley Cup hangover. The Bruins woke up from a 3-7 start to reel off three straight wins and they’re not done yet. It’s a tough ask for Edmonton to come away from Boston with a win.
The middle game of that Bruins winning streak was a 7-0 humiliation of the Maple Leafs at Toronto, and it left its scar. Toronto followed that up with another home ice embarrassment, a 5-1 loss at the hands of Florida (Florida!) and now the Leafs find themselves a big road dog at St Louis.
St Louis was quick to fire head coach Davis Payne after a slow start to the season, and new head coach Ken Hitchcock (the same guy that used to coach the Flyers) got off to a great start to his reign with a win over Chicago. The arrival of a new coach coincided with the comfort of five games on home ice for St Louis, and the Blues will be licking their lips at the prospect of a visit for the vulnerable Leafs.
Toronto’s problem is between the pipes. Coach Ron Wilson’s remark that “we’ve got to shore up our goaltending” is up there on the Understatement Meter with Chief Brody saying they needed a bigger boat in Jaws.
First choice goalie James Reimer is on the IR and replacements Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens haven’t been much good. Wilson says he knows which of them will start tonight at St Louis but it’s hard not to wonder if he decided by tossing a coin. Seems as good a way as any.
It’s no consolation to the Leafs fans, of course, but losing to Florida wasn’t quite disaster it may have seemed. Certainly five goals were too much to concede, but the Panthers are enjoying their best start to a season in fifteen years. The win at Toronto snapped a three game losing streak, but all those losses were in shootouts. Florida is a tough team to beat right now.
The Panthers move on to play their Southeastern division rival Winnipeg tonight, where the Jets are a slight home favorite. The favoritism arises for a number of reasons, like home advantage and the Jets’ win over the Panthers at Halloween. Problem is the Jets will struggle to stop goals all year and the Panthers seem to be on a hot streak.