November 08 2013 10:37AM
Oh man, who is hyped about David Clarkson's return to New Jersey?
I'm moreso hyped that the Leafs are finally back on the ice, and that awful loss against Vancouver can officially be thrown onto the backburner. The Jerred Smithson era in Toronto officially begins tonight with the Leafs taking on their polar opposites: a team that has done a good job at controlling the shot clock over the last two seasons, but with little to show for it on the ice. In fact, the Devils are so devoid of offensive talent that they may play themselves right into lottery pick contention at the end of the year.
Leading scorer? Jaromir Jagr. The Devils are 4-7-4, and it's difficult to come up with an interesting angle about them. But good golly, we'll try.
|Corsi Close %||52.0% (10th)||42.8 (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||1.50 (28th)||2.39 (15th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.25 (14th)||2.21 (13th)|
|PDO||96.6 (29th)||103.3 (5th)|
|5v4 GF/60||5.06 (20th)||8.06 (6th)|
|5v4 SF/60||34.7 (30th)||55.0 (15th)|
|4v5 GA/60||5.75 (14th)||4.19 (5th)|
|4v5 SA/60||41.0 (2nd)||62.9 (26th)|
|Penalty Differential||+9 (5th)||-11 (28th)|
The Devils are basically reverse Leafs. Lots of shots and nothing to show for it. Only the Florida Panthers have a lower PDO, despite the Devils adding a goaltender in the offseason. Their prospect pool is stagnant, yet they traded away the 9th overall pick for Cory Schneider, who has two years left on his deal before he goes unrestricted and collects All The Money.
It was a real "win now" move from the Devils. Lou Lamoriello stacked the holes in his roster created by the departures of Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson during the offseason with a series of good bets on unrestricted free agents like Jagr, Damien Brunner and Michael Ryder.
So far, those small bets are paying off, but without one or two players with game-breaking ability à la Ilya Kovalchuk in 2012, the Devils are going to do little more than show in hockey's worst division.
New Jersey doesn't actually take a lot of shots (their good Corsi rate comes from excellent shot prevention, mostly) but this game is essentially the zenith of the shot quality debate. The Leafs swept the season series last year, winning 4-2, 2-1 and 2-0 despite being out-shot 23-30, 18-28 and 13-32 in those games.
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
Joffrey Lupul - James van Riemsdyk - Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson
Troy Bodie - Jay McClement - Nikolai Kulemin
Frazer McLaren - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Mark Fraser - Paul Ranger
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
So Mark Fraser returns to the lineup and will be paired with Paul Ranger. Morgan Rielly sits to make way for Fraser. I don't particularly get it. Was Rielly kept around to burn a year on his entry-level deal to essentially be an injury fill-in for Fraser? What happened to all the defensive depth the Leafs seemed to have when they were using the media to coerce Cody Franson into signing for cheaper? Is this really the best they could do for Rielly?
Not to say "they're all idiots" like I will no doubt be accused of in the comment section here, but when talking about their plans for Rielly in training camp, "injury fill-in" was probably not the level Rielly would have to play at to stay up with the Maple Leafs rather than being sent back down to Moose Jaw.
On the bright side, the Franson-Gardiner pairing I loved in the playoffs last year is finally re-united. This moves Gardiner back to the left side of the ice.
As for the forwards, well… I don't see where "Jerred Smithson" is a better option between McLaren and Orr than "Trevor Smith", who has played much of his season there, unless Randy Carlyle is planning on using Smithson more than he should. I suppose the big news should be that Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel are back together, and it will be very interesting to see how this JvR at centre thing pans out. More than faceoffs, my worry is that JvR is going to be drawn to his natural side of the ice on breakouts and leave wide open holes up the middle, or he'll overcompensate and be way too close to his winger. The Leafs (and especially the top line) have problems on breakouts where there isn't an instantly recognizable man advantage through the neutral zone. JP Nikota has gone through some of that here.
Dainius Zubrus - Andrei Loktionov - Jaromir Jagr
Mattias Tedenby - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Steve Bernier - Travis Zajac - Damien Brunner
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Cam Janssen
Andy Greene - Peter Harrold
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Adam Larsson
Cam Janssen was recalled from Albany to much giggling for yesterday's game against Philly, and the laughter was directed at Ray Emery in the end as Janssen wound up scoring a goal.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why Mark Fayne is the designated 7th defenceman. He's a remarkably good possession player and sees the tough minutes when he's in the lineup and was on the top pair with Andy Greene back during the team's excellent 2012 season. He's been bitten by the PDO bug this year, telling reporters he's "had some bad bounces and I think that's gotten in my head a little bit". For the record, Devils goalies have just an .870 save percentage with Fayne on the ice at 5v5. With just 128 minutes played, I'm willing to chalk that up to bounces more than inability.
Otherwise, the Devils forwards are fairly meh. Especially without Patrick Elias in the lineup. I think a lot of people were expecting to see him and Jaromir Jagr do some great things this season. I saw the Devils earlier this year when they stopped through Vancouver and while everybody wanted to see Cory Schneider, I wanted to see Jagr one last time and he played brilliantly. He's not the goal scorer he once was (to be fair, nobody in the league is the goal scorer Jaromir Jagr once was) but he's still great to watch handle to puck. It'll be fun to see him match up against Dion Phaneuf tonight.
Martin Brodeur played last night, so I'm guessing either Schneider still isn't 100% or Deboer is comfortable letting a goalie with a poor save percentage over the last few seasons out against players that do nothing but get good shots off. Jonathan Bernier for Toronto, which isn't a surprise. Less about "win and you're in" and more about saving James Reimer for Boston tomorrow.
The Maple Leafs and Devils drop the puck at 7:30 (!) tonight on TSN. Don't forget to Streakcred.