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Maple Leafs At Blues Preview: Predators Lite?

Coach Ken Hitchcock sees shades of the Preds' defense in the Horachek-era Leafs. Will fans be seeing that in action tonight?

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun published a very interesting interview with Ken Hitchcock ahead of tonight's game. Hitch had some interesting thoughts of the (some would say nonexistent) new defensive mindset of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Former Nashville assistant coach Peter Horachek is now the head coach of the Maple Leafs, and Hitch is seeing some similarities between the two teams.

"Everything I see is Nashville," Hitchcock said on Friday at the Blues’ suburban practice facility.

"That’s the way Nashville played for years. You can see the implementation of it.

"I told our coaches you could show Nashville clips from last year, the year before, five years ago, that is the way they are going to play (when the Leafs and Blues meet at the Scottrade Center on Saturday night).

"There is going to be a tight gap. You’re going to have to get the puck behind them because there is not going to be any room in front of them. You can see that."

Horachek has only coached for five games, so it's tough to see if what Hitch is seeing will play out long term. The Leafs have only won one game during his brief tenure, a 5-2 home win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. They just finished up a trip to California in which they lost every game and were shut out by the Kings and Ducks in back to back games. They've allowed 17 goals during the past five games as well.

If the Blues can pick up the scoring pace after taking most of the game off Thursday night, it won't matter if the Leafs are trying to emulate the Predators. Tonight's starter Jonathan Bernier has not benefited from their new strategies in the least. The Leafs allow 33.5 shots a game (which has improved greatly under Horachek - they've been allowing about 10 fewer per game during his brief tenure), and surrender 3.07 goals a game. Pepper the guy with shots, and some will go in. Law of averages, and it's helpful when the Leafs encourage other teams to take as many shots as possible.

Alexander Steen is riding an eight-game point streak, which should help the Blues add to their seven-game point streak against the Maple Leafs. And, of course, Roman Polak, Helmet Farter is back.