Well, it's that time of year again. That day when the eternal tire bonfire that is the centre of the hockey universe enters the orbit of the NHL's Pluto, our Winnipeg Jets. An organization that throws insane amounts of money at coaches and hires a grab bag of hockey management so as to create a smokescreen to distract their pathetic fan base into believing that hope exists. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the original troll job. A franchise so bad that anyone brave enough to wear any of their apparel runs the risk of being pitied at Mr.T like levels. The time to take advantage of the Leafs in MTS Centre is right off the the opening whistle, while they are still confused by the lower bowl patrons actually in their seats and not treating the concourse like a rich hoser version of a Catalina wine mixer. Take heart Leafs, there will be plenty of your supporters wasting the oxygen at MTS Centre Wednesday night. You'll recognize them by their slovenly appearance and inability to make eye contact with even other Leafs fans.
Keys to the Game
The Leafs currently have three goalies in the mix. Reimer has been out with an injury but is due back at any time. In the Leafs last game, they started a rookie named Garret Sparks who pitched a shutout in his debut. They also have Jonathan Bernier. Shoot early and often at any of these guys. Reimer has been chased by the Jets in his home province before, Bernier is letting in dump ins from centre ice, and Sparks has never played an NHL game on the road let alone one in MTS where the crowd can be loud and intimidating.
Hey Jets, try not to take a lot of penalties. We know you'll ignore this advice. Whatever.
Play the disciplined style of hockey that helped you squeak into the playoffs last year.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Jets have Hutchinson and Hellebuyck in the mix. The odds favour Hellebuyck starting this game and if that's the case, it would only be his second NHL start and first at home. The Leafs would do well to attack early and hope for an early goal to shake the confidence of the rookie netminder.
Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri or whomever they have on that team should do their best to get under the skin of Jets players. The only thing the Jets love more than taking undisciplined penalties is demanding trades out of Winnipeg.
Now, this is important so listen up Leafs: carry the puck out of your zone up the boards on Stuart's side. When Mark Stuart sees this he starts to salivate and all he can think of is standing up the puck carrier at their blue line. Don't be scared. Simply dump of the puck to a teammate two seconds before he tries to hit you. This will lead to an odd man rush. You are guaranteed at least four of these a game.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Phaneuf seems like the obvious candidate here. Don't take the bait. The Leafs may have three goalies in the building but I promise you, two of them will mind the Leafs net during the game. After the game is firmly in hand, take to booing the one in the press box. This will likely be James Reimer. Let him know that Manitoba hates him and always will.
The Leafs start Sparks. He gets chased before the midway point of the second. Bernier shuffles out to that sad Charlie Brown music and is even worse. The Jets score six goals. Trouba scores two, Perreault scores two, with Wheeler and Little rounding it out. The Leafs score one when a Phaneuf point shot gets redirected off of Lupul's elbow.
Final score 6-1 Jets.