On Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs put together one of their best games of the season to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-1. If the Maple Leafs beat the Philadelphia Flyers, they will be able to head into their Christmas break (almost) forgetting about their recent two-game loss.
The game this afternoon starts early for Maple Leafs’ fans. It’s a rare matinee that seems to have become a fixture before Christmas. The game also ends the Maple Leafs’ two-game homestand. When the team resumes again, it will be in St. Louis and it will be the start of a three-game road trip.
The Flyers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 at home two days ago. After today’s game, they head out to meet the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow Friday.
Question One: Can the Maple Leafs win their second game in a row?
Item One: Can Michael Bunting Keep Up His Scoring Pace?
Michael Bunting scored Toronto’s first goal against the Lightning and has been on a nice scoring pace. That goal last night was the 100th point of his NHL career. It was also his eighth goal of the season; and, with his 15 assists, he now has totalled 23 points in 33 games.
Bunting’s been on a bit of a hot streak for the past 12 games and has four goals and nine assists (for 13 points). Now that he’s back in the team’s top six (and it looks as if he’ll stay there), his point total should keep rising.
Question Two: Can Bunting score his ninth goal today?
Item Two: Ilya Samsonov Gets the Start Against the Flyers
As expected, Ilya Samsonov is expected to start today against the Flyers. In Samsonov’s last game, he was beaten badly by his old Washington Capitals team by a final score of 5-2. It was Samsonov’s poorest game of the season.
On the season, Samsonov now carries a record of 9-3-0, a goals-against-average of 1.98, and a save percentage of .929 in 12 contests this season. That’s still really good.
Question Three: Can Samsonov get back to his solid performances after his last game against the Capitals?
Item Three: Jordie Benn Draws into Today’s Lineup
Because Rasmus Sandin’s neck injury won’t allow him to play today, Jordie Benn will draw into the lineup. Benn was recently activated off the injured reserve list (on December 15).
Benn has played six games with the Maple Leafs this season. He’s scored a goal and added an assist in his games. He looked solid even in a first-pairing role with the now-injured Morgan Rielly.
Question Four: Can Benn jump into the mix and play as well as he did before his most recent injury?
Item Four: Denis Malgin Plays Big Minutes with the Avalanche in Win
I always like to follow former Maple Leafs’ players wherever they move. It didn’t take Denis Malgin much time to land and play. His new team, the Colorado Avalanche, beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime in Denver.
Malgin played 16:21 minutes. Malign didn’t hit the scoresheet, but he did register three hits.
Bonus Question: Although no longer a Maple Leafs’ question, can Malgin have a solid rest of the season with the Avalanche?