Before the game tonight, In Lou We Trust spoke to the editor of Pension Plan Puppets about the Maple Leafs. Enjoy the conversation as a supplement to Fischer's already intense, wide-ranging preview.
Question 1: Since this is the first time the Devils will play the Leafs, for the benefit of those of us who haven't seen the Leafs play this season, could you briefly describe Toronto's style of play and their tendencies on the ice?
PPP: Well, first they'll come out flat. So that might confuse the Devils. Then, they'll give up the first goal at least if not the first two. They'll probably begin shooting from everywhere, pot one, two, maybe three, but don't worry because they'll give those goals back soon enough. You'll probably see some atrocious penalty killing helping out. Then the Leafs will cut the Devils' lead down to 1 before looking bemused while giving up an ENG.
Question 2: I noticed in your recap of the latest Leafs loss, 5-3 to LA, that you highlighted how quiet the Air Canada Centre was throughout the game. Given the current winless streak of the Leafs (last win: January 18, 4-3 in Nashville) along with the team's record, have the fans just accepted the team's fate of being a poor team?
PPP: Yeah, things are pretty grim in Leafland. It would be a completely different story without the Kessel trade. People would look at 9 UFAs as an opportunity for Brian Burke to finish re-making the Leafs while looking forward to the top 3 pick coming to Toronto.
Instead, people are worried that a GM that so miscalculated (as he himself has admitted) how this team would play this year will do something panicky like sign Ilya Kovalchuk.
Question 3: While it hasn't led to much in terms of wins, the Maple Leafs do boast a balanced attack on paper, with 7 players with 10 goals or more. Niklas Hagman in particular appears to be doing quite well with 20. Who among the Leafs forwards should be the most dangerous against New Jersey tonight?
PPP: Depends who feels in the mood to play. Hagman has a handful of goals in his last couple of games and looks to be finding his game.
If Ponikarovsky is up for the game he's another threat but the player to key in on will obviously be Phil Kessel. Most teams are throwing double and triple teams at him so if his linemates spend too much time watching him when he has the puck his line will be easy to stop.
Question 4: Let's talk goaltenders. The Leafs will visit the Devils tonight and then host Vancouver on Saturday. Based on the stats, Vesa Toskala is abysmal and Jonas Gustavsson can only be described as good relative to Toskala (among other goaltenders). That said, who do you think should start against the Devils tonight and why?
PPP: I think Vesa Toskala will start because Burke will want to give his team the best chance possible to beat the Canucks at home the next night. By the way, if you guys lose to Toskala your team should fold.
Question 5: Lastly, this will be the first of three meetings over the next two weeks. Do you think the Leafs pull together and score a win over a struggling Devils roster, or will the futility continue for Toronto?
PPP: Continued futility. If the Devils are serious about doing anything this year they better win all three games. Last year the Leafs didn't struggle to score in going 3-0-1 but the year before they couldn't get one past Brodeur. I have a feeling it will be more like that year than last.