October 02 2013 03:14PM
Let's move on from the fighting debate. Seems to be all anybody can talk about today and was the unfortunate focus of many game recaps.
So now the Leafs move on from Montreal and a team that dressed two enforcers in their lineup to Philadelphia, a team that doesn—oh…
Easy to focus on hockey after last night through. Toronto looked pretty good when the score was even, giving way on the shot clock mostly when they took a 4-2 lead in the third period. Their special teams were right friggin' dominant and it's even hard for a math nerd like me to suggest the team was unlucky in winning their opening night contest. They were the better team, full-stop, and the fact that James Reimer had a much better night than Carey Price wasn't the difference.
We'll see what happens in Philadelphia. Expectations for the Flyers are crazy slim this season. Their defence is a mess and the Leafs have two goalies that would be the starter in Philly.
Maple Leafs at Flyers
Puck drop: 7:30 Eastern
Like I said, expectations are crazy low in Philadelphia. Despite all the forward talent up front with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and others, the Flyers were just 16th in the NHL in 5-on-5 offence last season. Lots of predictions have them finishing out of the playoffs, without a retrospective analysis on what the heck exactly happened to that team between 2011-2012 and 2013.
They were 23rd in overall 5-on-5 Corsi% and upgraded at one position: defence. Mark Streit came in to replace Bruno Gervais in the top four. In goal, out goes Ilya Bryzgalov and in comes Steve Mason, a goaltender who has had a lower peak than Bryz but at least he's cheap.
Point is, simply by looking at the team's record from 2013, and the minimal roster changes, and there's little reason to believe that the Flyers will do much better unless they get some crazy luck. That said, the Flyers have a lot of capable horses leftover from the 2012 team that knocked off Pittsburgh in the first round, most of them are closer to their prime scoring years.
The Randy Carlyle Shell Game has begun. Darren Dreger suggested on the radio that Morgan Rielly may come in for Jake Gardiner, but this is all we get from dailyfaceoff, updated after the game yesterday:
Gardiner was a minus-2 and made a costly giveaway leading to a goal. That sort of stuff doesn't concern me because him and Cody Franson, if they stay together, are going to be the best pairing on the Leafs as for keeping the puck in the other teams' end. The Leafs got out-shot 4-8 with Mark Fraser on the ice… why isn't he the guy to take a seat?
I know I promised not to talk about fighting... but would it be the end of the world if Colton Orr took just one night off from trying to hurt somebody with his fists? It's going to be weird to watch the next fight between Orr and the other team's enforcer, and Philly happen to have two of them...
Hartnell - Giroux - Voracek
B. Schenn - Lecavalier - Simmonds
Talbot - Couturier - Read
Rosehill - Hall - Rinaldo
Timonen - Coburn
Schenn - Streit
Meszaros - Grossman
Here's how you can use analytics to influence hockey pool decision-making. On February 7th last year, I traded Cory Conacher, who at that time had 12 points in 9 games, to another manager for Jakub Voracek, who had just 5 points in his first 10 games. I had looked at on-ice shot and scoring rates and deduced that Voracek was getting better opportunities, just not converting, and eventually he would. Conacher was the opposite.
Conacher got just 17 points in his remaining 38 games and Voracek became a force, scoring 41 points in his next 38.
Point is, there are online tools to check for outlying shooting percentages, especially early on. It's a great way to add undervalued talent if you're in a keeper league. If an offensive player like Voracek has a rough start and you have a chance to get him for two-and-a-half years for a player that's 23 and has a limited track record? Go for it.
Fantasy Hockey Chronicles is about the only way I can make any analysis of the Flyers lineup interesting. The top line is super dangerous, Sean Couturier gets underplayed and the defence is a time bomb. Luckily for the Flyers, their starting goaltender tonight is faaaaantastic.
Jonathan Bernier versus Steve Mason. #TMLTalk indeed, Henny. #TMLTalk indeed.
In the last three seasons, 35 goaltenders have played more than 4000 minutes at even strength. Of those 35, 29 are employed by a National Hockey League team. Of those 29, 28 of them have better even strength save percentages than Steve Mason. The only one that doesn't is Steve Mason, with a pitiful .9117.
Bernier hasn't played enough time for us to get a good read on him, but I doubt Mason regains that first-half-of-2009 form that the Flyers need him to be in for them to have a reasonable shot at contending in their division. The other guy is Ray Emery who has morphed into a journeyman.
Mason is playing against a very good offensive team that showed last season it can score in back-to-back games on the road. Could get ugly.
Make sure to sign up for Streakcred. My picks for today:
I did terrible yesterday, giving you guys assurance that Edmonton would wipe Winnipeg at home. Picks from today are below. I like how the Leafs match up against Philly and I think the Sabres are set to go 0-82.