An Original 6 matchup on Saturday night between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks means a lot more than just a potential two points, for the visitor at least. For the Maple Leafs, it’s a chance for them to prove that their 6-2 start to the season is a testament to what type of team they really are: A good one.
Beating the Blackhawks on the road inside a raucous United Center isn’t going to be an easy task for the Leafs to handle. They haven’t beaten the Blackhawks in over 10 seasons, since February 12, 2003. And although the Blackhawks don’t find themselves atop the Central Division of the NHL‘s Western Conference just yet, they are still very much looking like a team that will settle for no less than competing for a Stanley Cup Final berth come spring.
Blackhawks Captain, Jonathan Toews has to like what he has seen from his team so far. Although they haven’t witnessed someone take complete control of the goal scoring scene in Chi-Town, the Blackhawks have to enjoy the fact that they are getting strong efforts out of everyone as 21 players from the 25-man roster have registered a point for their team already this season. The Maple Leafs will have to try their best to match the depth and strength that the Blackhawks’ roster represents top to bottom.
For the Maple Leafs to win they need massive games from their usual suspects. Phil Kessel has to outplay Patrick Kane. Joffrey Lupul needs to get physical with Toews. And last but not least, Dave Bolland needs to have a great homecoming as he returns to Chicago, a city that he scored a Stanley Cup Championship winning goal for just last season. The Maple Leafs also have to figure out their goaltending situation as James Reimer left mid-game against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night after a collision and then saw his counterpart Jonathan Bernier give up three quick goals in the third period, one of which was as rough as they come.
It’s most definitely not going to be a walk in the park for the Maple Leafs to go into Chicago and win as the odds are obviously against them. But as long as they bring their scrappy style of play, control their shots against and capitalize on the few opportunities they may only get, they could sneak out a hard fought win in Chicago. However, if the Leafs decide to play like they did against the Hurricanes when they gave up a 2-0 lead going into the third period and ended up losing the game 3-2 on Thursday night, this matchup could get messy for the Maple Leafs very quickly. This one will either go down to the wire or it will be a good ole fashioned blowout in the Windy City. It’s time for the Maple Leafs to prove they are contenders rather than pretenders.