I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve and I assume the majority of you are a little groggy while reading this. The Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs. It doesn’t get any better than that. OK, maybe it could be at The Big House, but BMO Field looks great and the scene today should great. People often forget during these outdoor games that there is a huge two points still on the line and the Red Wings certainly every point they can get.
2016 has come and gone and the calendar year wasn’t kind to the Red Wings. From January 1st to December 31st, 2016 the Red Wings were 39-34-8 (86 points) in 81 games, which is 21st in the NHL. The Maple Leafs were even worse, going 31-39-11 (73 points), but the 2016 season was a difficult one for them and led to them getting Auston Matthews, so I don’t think anyone over there is complaining.
As far as outdoor games go, this will be the Red Wings’ fourth outdoor appearance and they’ve had success in this environment. They’ve gone 2-0-1 in their first three outdoor games and the loss came in a shootout against these Toronto Maple Leafs at The Big House. Their wins came against the Blackhawks in the 2009 Winter Classic and versus the Avalanche in a Stadium Series game last year.
Today’s matchup is going to be tough though. The Maple Leafs come in playing arguably their best hockey of the season, having won all four games on their latest road-trip. Let’s see how these two teams stack up against each other:
|Detroit Red Wings||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Goals For||2.33 GF/PG (26th)||2.91 GF/PG (6th)|
|Goals Against||2.83 GA/PG (21st)||2.69 GA/PG (t-15th)|
|Power Play||12.0% (30th)||20.0% (11th)|
|Penalty Kill||82.0% (14th)||84.9% (6th)|
|Corsi||48.43 CF% (21st)||50.39 CF% (13th)|
|Last 10||4-5-1 (t-25th)||6-2-2 (9th)|
THE RED WINGS
The Red Wings are going to get healthier soon, but Mike Green, Alexey Marchenko and Justin Abdelkader all remain sidelined for today’s contest.
Green and Marchenko’s injuries mean that Nick Jensen will stay in the lineup and is expected to skate alongside Danny DeKeyser. Jensen has two assists in his first four games and his underlying numbers have been impressive—he current;y carries a 55.66 CorsiFor% and and 7.44 CF% RelTM, which for those of you who don’t know, means the Red Wings are a lot better when Jensen is on the ice than when he is not.
The Red Wings will continue to lean heavily on their big wingers Anthony Mantha and Thomas Vanek. Both of them have played very well as of late. Mantha was great in Ottawa on Thursday and has three goals, three assists and 3.0 shots per game in his last five games. Vanek has goals in back-to-back games and six points (2G / 4A) in his last seven games.
THE MAPLE LEAFS
Getting Matthews has made the Maple Leafs extremely dangerous offensively. The 2016 No.1 overall pick has had a great start to his rookie campaign, scoring 18 goals with 12 assists (30 points) in his first 35 games. However, he isn’t the only young forward making a difference in Toronto. Fellow rookie Mitch Marner has 26 points (8G / 18A) and William Nylander sits at 24 (8G / 16A).
The addition of Matthews has done a ton for fellow centres Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak. The two of them were likely playing in bigger roles than they could handle, but Matthews has come in and given them three legitimate centres and it has helped Kadri and Bozak immensely. Kadri is on-pace for his first career 30-goal season and his second 50-point year. Bozak is also on-pace to tie his career-high in points with 49.
Where the Red Wings and Maple Leafs are similar is that their group of forwards are strong, but their bluelines both need some work still. Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev are leaned on as their No.1 pairing, but Jake Gardiner has arguably been their best defenseman—he carries a 4.78 CF% RelTM, which leads this group. The pairing known as ‘Hunlak’ is where the Red Wings can take advantage today. Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak have struggled this year and Detroit’s skilled forwards need to pounce when they’re on the ice.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Red Wings’ head coach Jeff Blashill refused to name a starting goalie for the Centennial Classic, but Jared Coreau was in the starter’s crease the other day, which suggests that his fourth career NHL start will come outside.
After losing his first career NHL start in Pittsburgh, Coreau has won his last two games while turning aside 57 of 62 games (.919 SV%). Coreau looked sharp in Ottawa, but it’s probably more about how poorly Petr Mrazek has played rather than how good Coreau has been.
Frederik Andersen will certainly start in goal for the Maple Leafs. Andersen struggled in his first few weeks as a Leaf, but that seems to be way behind him because he has been great for the last two months. Since November 1st, Andersen leads the NHL in SV% (.939), is tied for fifth in the in wins (13) and seventh in GAA (2.08).
Toronto definitely has the edge in goal, which hasn’t been the case throughout the years, but they’ve definitely found the goalie of the future in the man known as “The Great Dane.”
THE LAST TIME…
Normally I look back at the last meeting between these two teams, but let’s take a look at the last time they met outdoors.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 3:00 p.m. ET at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario. You can watch the game on NBC in the United States or on SportsNet in Canada. If you can’t watch the game you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
Also, make sure to follow us on Twitter; we’ll have live tweets, GIFS, and all the fun stuff that a topical social media platform has.