NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Detroit Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Joe Louis Arena at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
If Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s tactics had to be described in one word, it would be disciplined. The temptation to trade for short-term help last season must have been there with their then 22-season playoff appearance streak hanging in the balance. He stuck with the team’s goal of rebuilding on the fly though and it’s paid off handsomely.
The Detroit squad facing its long-time rivals tonight might be similar in terms of names to last year’s model, but it’s proven to be far more developed and effective. Toronto’s already gotten a taste of that as the Red Wings beat them twice in October, although the Leafs were able to get revenge in a 4-1 victory on Nov. 22.
The fact that this already their fourth contest this season is something relatively new. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings are old rivals, but that battle simmered while they were in different conferences. Since the NHL’s realignment put Detroit and Toronto in the same division starting with the 2013-14 campaign, the two squads have faced each other seven times, including the Winter Classic. That’s allowed these players to gain a familiarity with each other that’s rekindled the old conflict.
“It’s always a great atmosphere, it’s always a lot of fun with the ‘Let’s Go Red Wings’ and the ‘Go Leafs Go’ chants,” Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said, per the Red Wings’ website. “It always makes for like a playoff atmosphere. It’ll be no different tomorrow.”
Howard is the probable goaltender for Detroit. Toronto might counter with James Reimer after Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier turned aside 32 of 33 shots in a 4-1 victory over Calgary Tuesday night. The Maple Leafs have been on a roll lately with a 6-1-1 record, but Reimer hasn’t been a part of it.
The 26-year-old goaltender hasn’t played at all since allowing six goals in starts on Nov. 15 and Nov. 18. This might not be an ideal game for Reimer as he has an 0-3-0 record with a 3.96 GAA and .877 save percentage in four career games against the Red Wings, but eventually Bernier needs a breather and Reimer a shot at redemption.
Regardless of who the Maple Leafs put between the pipes, there’s a good chance they’ll get plenty of offensive support as Toronto has recorded at least three goals in each of its last eight games. Toronto ranks second in the league 3.44 goals per game, although Detroit isn’t far behind with an average of 3.11.
In other words this has the makings of a hard fought and potentially high scoring affair. With both teams trying to keep their present momentum going for as long as it can possibly last, the stakes are high tonight.