The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. It’s opening night of the 2020-21 NHL hockey season!!!
How this season will end is anybody’s guess. We do know it will start with a tilt between the Toronto Maple Leafs and long time rival, the Montreal Canadiens though and I couldn’t be more excited for it!!
We haven’t seen the Leafs since they dropped Game #5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That was way back in August and it left a bitter taste in a lot of peoples mouths.
The team has had a bit of a make-over since then. With the departure of depth forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Kyle Clifford (among others), the Leafs will have a bit of a difference look up front. In their place we’ll see the likes of Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds and Alex Barabanov.
On the backend the Leafs said goodbye to Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci, while T.J. Brodie, Zach Bogosian and Mikko Lehtonen were brought in to try to stabilize the Leafs blueline. The big name there is obviously Brodie, who is slated to play big minutes on the top pairing with Morgan Rielly. If the two can find chemistry the Leafs we chould be witness to the best blueline group the Leafs have assembled in years.
My biggest concern this year is the Leafs PK unit. After finishing 21st in the NHL last season it appears that not a lot was done to correct any issues there. The team seems content to stick with the same personnel, which includes Marner, Mikheyev, Hyman and now Kerfoot, who will take the minutes played by the departed Kapanen, up front, while Muzzin, Holl, Rielly and Bogosian, in place of Ceci, will play those minutes from the blueline. Unless the coaches come up with a miracle cure I would expect the PK group to land in the bottom third of the league once again. Over a long season the team can get past an issue like this and finish high in the standings, but this could cost a team a series, like it did against the Boston Bruins the last time those teams met in the playoffs, when it’s over a small stretch of 7 games.
Here’s hoping I’m making a lot of noise about nothing.
I’ll end this on a positive note. It does appear that the team has a deeper/better blueline. They’ve also managed to retain three terrific goaltenders in a year where you could very easily need that many solid NHL goalies (at least). While the fans have always asked management to sacrifice one of the young stars to add to the blueline and even out the team, I always assumed they would exhaust every avenue before doing so. This is another year where that seems to be the case. They sacrificed players with healthier caphits (Johnsson, Kapanen) in order to add to the backend (Brodie). Their forward depth doesn’t look as deep going into the year, but they have better defensive depth and added good veterans up front. They’ll have some cap space to work with by the time the trade deadline comes along as well, so look for them to be active at that time.
Enjoy the game folks!! GO LEAFS GO!!!!