Leafs Postgame - Bruins find weakness in Leafs PP, win 3-1 on Hockey Night

Cam Charron
November 09 2013 09:05PM

The second period may have been the best period the Toronto Maple Leafs have played this year. All that time in the zone, all of those delicious scoring chances in front, and it's a shot from the outside that winds up beating Tuukka Rask, the only goal of the night for Toronto.

For the Leafs Saturday night, it was all of their biggest problems rolled into one for most of it, unfortunately. The penalty kill, which has been bleeding goals against, gave up two. The offence dried up. They ran into a hot goaltender, and the Boston Bruins absolutely took it to Toronto physically. It seemed the national broadcaster had an iso-cam during the play on most of the Leafs on the bench. Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri, Mason Raymond, Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson all looked a little banged up at some point. The good news is everybody seems healthy, and Toronto gets out of a back-to-back with a split. That's the goal going into these things, and the Leafs accomplished just that.

But they did not accomplish to shake off the scary ghosts of last year's playoffs and skate away with a victory. They were in it, and it was a very entertaining game—a very physical game—and the Leafs hung in there blow for blow with the Eastern Conference champions until the very. 3-1 the final after a late empty-net goal.

THE RUNDOWN

I'm not sure about the way this one started. The Bruins really took it to Toronto in the first period. They didn't attempt to establish a physical tone in any way, but it took a long time for the Leafs to get going. It took nearly eight minutes of game action before any Maple Leaf player other than Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel or James van Riemsdyk even attempted an entry into the Bruins zone, let alone succeed. 

The Fenwick chart at Extra Skater really shows what happened: the Bruins had the quick start, the Leafs briefly pulled even before that monstrous shift that had the Leafs hemmed in their own zone for 2:03 of game-time:

After the first, the Leafs pulled close, with Boston getting the better of Toronto in the third. Goals were definitely earned in this game, and the first goal of the game came on a powerplay for the Bruins as a result of a penalty drawn on that long shift.

The Leafs goal came at the end of an extended sequence in the second during which the Leafs directed 17 unblocked shots at the Bruins net and the Bruins directed just 6 at the Leafs'. The result of that was a goal that Tuukka Rask would love to have back:

Let the dulcet tones of Jack Edwards walk you through it…

Actually a pretty good sequence from Paul Ranger there, who took a direct path to cut Loui Eriksson's path to the net and stick-checked him before playing the puck to a safe area of the ice with a Leaf in support. Under most traditional scoring chance standards, Lupul's goal wouldn't have registered as one.

Unfortunately, a strong second ended with James van Riemsdyk take an unfortunate high-sticking double minor against Johnny Boychuk. The Bruins would score on the second half of it. Both goals were pretty similar, with James Reimer making an initial save and a Bruin gaining possession on the goal-mouth. Zdeno Chara scored that way in the first, and Patrice Bergeron in the third.

Bergeron added an empty net goal. Not a great night for the PK unit, who allowed 7 shots on exactly four minutes of PK time, and two goals.

WHY THE LEAFS LOST

Nikolai Kulemin and Nikolai Kulemin alone. Or Paul Ranger. Or Jay McClement.

I'm looking at that 2-minute, 3-second-long sequence inside the Leafs end. Six shot attempts for the Bruins, five unblocked, and the Leafs were dead tired at the end of it. McClement wound up taking a holding penalty.

So what happened? Well, it began with a dump-in attempt (I didn't mark it down, but it may have been Dougie Hamilton) and the Bruins established possession on the right wing. The shift didn't begin too terribly, with a couple of distant attempts from the point, but McClement ran into Paul Ranger and knocked the stick out of his hands. Kulemin, thinking the stick was broken, gave Ranger his, effectively rendering the Leafs shorthanded by half a man. Hamilton had a couple of nice keeps at the right point and Jarome Iginla threw a big hit to keep the play alive.

Why Kulemin? Well (I have this all on my notes after a quick re-watch during the second intermission) at 7:41, Ranger lost his stick. It Dennis Seidenberg threw a puck into traffic (not recorded as an attempt) and the puck wound up behind the Leafs net. From there, Mark Fraser established control and passed the puck up to the left wing, where a Leaf should have been in support.

Problem was, Kulemin was in front of the net, not clearing the zone but for some reason giving Ranger his stick. I think a few people could watch that sequence over and over and maybe generate a different conclusion, but I think that within twenty seconds of the Bruins entering the zone, the Leafs could have gotten the puck out. As soon as Kulemin didn't have his stick though, the Leafs were down to a tired McClement, a tired Fraser, a tired Ranger, and a Phil Kessel who is notoriously bad on breakouts.

Now, no shift is the "turning point" (Glenn Healy said in the second intermission that the Bruins should have won it there. Well... you can only score once on any sequence, and it was 0-0 at that point. At the very worst, the Leafs would have been down 1-0) but that sequence did lead to a penalty that led to the first Boston goal, and the Leafs were really fighting from behind for most of the game afterwards.

Also, give it up for Tuukka Rask, who stopped 33 of 34 shots, including 10 on the Leafs' powerplay (which was buzzing all night), 7-of-8 from the Leafs' best shooter Lupul, three from Kessel including two pretty good attempts, and every chance the Leafs got in close. The Leafs were in the game because of their goaltending, but they also lost partly because of the goaltending at the other end too.

BLUE WARRIOR

Lupul was great. He appeared to be the Leafs most active player in the neutral zone on carry-ins, was the most active Leaf offensively with eight shots and was over 60% in Corsi on the night.

NOTES

Per Extra Skater, which is an excellent resource

  • Claude Julien loves his matchups with Zdeno Chara. Phil Kessel played 10.8 of his 17.5 minutes against Zdeno Chara. In those 10.8 minutes? Two unblocked shot attempts by Kessel. In the other 6.7 minutes? Five unblocked shot attempts.
     
  • After the first TV timeout, the Leafs had a faceoff in the offensive zone. Who does Randy Carlyle send out? Jerred Smithson, Troy Bodie and Frazer McLaren. Bleagh.
     
  • The Bruins third line was excellent. Close to a 70% possession rate for Reilly Smith, Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. Primary matchup for Kelly? Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger. Eight offensive zone starts and four in the defensive end. That is called "sheltering". The Bruins use their top two lines against the tougher comps.
     
  • The Leafs 5-on-5 shooting percentage is about 8.7%. Last year it was 10.7%, but the NHL average is closer to 8%. They are about a goal-and-a-half ahead of where they'd be with a league average shooting percentage at 5-on-5. "Shot quality" isn't why they're winning games. It's goaltending.
     
  • Speaking of which, James Reimer stopped 32 of 34, and all 26 at even strength. Despite losing, the Leafs PDO actually goes slightly up...
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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 pelhem grenville
November 10 2013, 06:32AM
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...zzz not a comment in twelve hours zzz...

why is that?

are leaf fans too busy to blog?

I live here in S.W. Ontario now ... sorta lived on the oilersnation site for the past few years and have always been told that ya sure other nation sites will 'catch on' one day...so far? notsomuch... where do blogging leaf fans go if not here ?>

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#2 MLHS
November 10 2013, 07:58AM
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@pelhem grenville

Mapleleafshotstove.com

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#3 Leaf Fan in Mexico
November 10 2013, 09:58AM
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Not a bad article.

I agree with your analysis re two from a split, but maybe for different reasoning.

If the Leafs aspire to anything less than winning every game - even in retrospect, or rather especially in retrospect because that is how a winning or loosing culture is formed - then all is futile.

My thoughts are this: the split was a success because if the Leafs are to give themselves the opportunity to succeed in the playoffs (i.e., by first making them and thereby giving themselves the chance to upset, or that is, go past round one or two), then they will have to win the games against the teams the can beat (i.e., the Devils) and at least be in the games against teams that are consistently better than they are.

That was this game in a nutshell and we fans need be proud of that and entirely unsatisfied for not having the team other aspire to beat.

Thanks to you and the boys at TLN for upping the analytical game...

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#4 WesternDP
November 10 2013, 09:59AM
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"are leaf fans too busy to blog?"

Long weekend plus the Leafs lost.

Had the Leafs won there would be lots of comments about the goals etc.

They missed Bolland in that game

Despite his lack of speed Smithson looked quite useful as a spare part. There were some key faceoff wins against the Bruins and 89% against the Devils.

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#5 Mike
November 10 2013, 12:33PM
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Now, the following is going to sound like a sarcastic comment diguised as an insult... But it's not.

As recently as two weeks ago, there has been a slight change that I've noticed in the style of your writing. You've had your critics (including me) for your reliance of advanced statistics to make points. I find that this isn't totally the case anymore and you seem to write pieces with more meat on the bones to go with the graphs and analytics. Now I am not of the opinion that you need to have played the sport to understand it, but I do think that there are certain things that you can only know from personal experience. I like that you've began to acknowledge that there may be some things that Carlyle knows that you don't, based on his experience with the game. It's a mature progression and takes away the (accidental or not) tone of "I'm the know it all blogger" and replaces it with "here's the analytic side of things".

I could be completely off base with these points about your writing style because I've only been reading this site for about a year, but that's just my opinion... Keep it up!

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#6 gogreen1010
November 10 2013, 05:11PM
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OF COURSE it had to be Bergeron... -____- very true that the Leafs are winning bc of their goaltending but losing games bc of the goaltending at the other end. i was watching that terrible shift being like "why isn't Kulemin picking up that stick?!"

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#7 Jeremy Ian
November 11 2013, 07:49AM
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@pelhem grenville

This is a good site, but the thing is there are a lot of leaf fan sites, so the competition is stiff.

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#8 Jeremy Ian
November 11 2013, 07:54AM
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The one hindsight input is that many warned over the summer that the C position was the Leafs' soft-spot, even into their feeder system. The injuries reveal this. At the same time, any team missing two of their top three centers would be limping through games. So, all things considered, it was not a bad back-to-back.

Agree with WesternDP that Smithson was useful, so a good stop gap.

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