Toronto were neck and neck with the Tampa Bay Lightning a few weeks ago but a tough run of fixtures in January has hindered their momentum. However, the Maple Leafs will expect to get back to their brilliant best following the All-Star weekend and a win against the New York Islanders looks likely.
With Auston Matthews on the roster, anything is possible. Some players have the talent to turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye and Toronto will be expecting their main man to step up as they chase a postseason spot.
The Islanders are in contention to snatch a playoff berth in the Metropolitan Division. New York are seventh in the table but sit just two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in second spot and they are more than capable of reducing the deficit in the near future.
Scoring goals comes naturally to the Islanders but so does conceding and reliability issues are costing New York on a regular basis. That simply has to change in the second half of the season.
Maple Leafs Must Remain Focused
With 28 wins from 51 games, Toronto are 17/1 with 888Sport for the Stanley Cup and are on the way to finishing in the playoff spots. They have slipped below the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division but there are still plenty of opportunities to regain second spot – the Lightning are clear at the top though.
Two victories on the spin going into the break will leave Maple Leafs fans excited ahead of the coming months. The business end of the season is always tough but Toronto can go all the way and it would be foolish to write them off in the playoffs.
KEY MAN: Auston Matthews. Matthews notched yet another point on Thursday evening, taking his record for the 2017/18 to 37 points in 41 games. The Toronto star is one of the best players in the National Hockey League and he will be tough to stop here.
Prior to the brief break, Matthews had recorded three points in his last four Maple Leafs games. Barring any major injury issues in the coming weeks and months, his form will be crucial to Toronto in their bid to win the Stanley Cup.
New York’s Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts
The Islanders are one of the NHL’s “nearly” teams. In years gone by, the New York side have struggled to inspire confidence but this could be their time to get back to the top, especially as their division is so open.
New York must tighten up defensively though. Conceding 180 goals in 50 appearances is not good enough and they will fall short against the better offensive sides unless they focus on sorting that issue out.
KEY MAN: John Tavares. Tavares continues to turn back the clock and the Islanders star will be well fancied to fire his side to victory in this contest. With over 50 points this year, he is back to his brilliant best and that can only mean positive things for the franchise.
With 26 goals and 31 assists, Tavares has been effective both in front of goal and creating for his teammates. Only two of his other New York players have bagged 50 points this year and it could be up to Tavares to make the breakthrough.
This one could be fairly one-sided if Toronto hit the ground running. The Islanders are a decent unit but their opponents have more potential and Matthews can be the difference maker once again. New York will fancy their chances, and rightly so, but the Maple Leafs will take some stopping. There are always a few shocks after the All-Star weekend but Toronto will be determined to avoid a surprise defeat in this one.
MAPLE LEAFS 4-1 ISLANDERS