LGD - Game 38: Red Wings @ Leafs - Moving on up

Cam Charron
December 21 2013 01:16PM

 

It's fitting that the next time these two teams play will be outside in the freezing Michigan cold, because these two teams are icy right now, in that over the last month or so, have probably been the two most disappointing teams in the league. 

The Red Wings have gone 3-5-2 since the start of December, and the Leafs are at 4-6-0 in the month, after entering it already on a 4-game losing streak. Now, you know that previous games results don't carry over to the next game, and I know that previous games results don't carry over to the next game, but casual fans don't like to hear that, and advertisers don't like to hear that either. 

Officially, however, this is just another hockey game, played between the 4th and 5th placed teams in the Eastern Conference division that will send five teams to the playoffs in all likelihood. It's an Original Six clash! Former Norris Division, and Central Division foes! Two teams that used to be in the friggin' Western Conference. The last time these two teams played as divisional opponents was March 18, 1998. Norm Maracle stopped 20 of 22 shots and Kris Draper scored twice in a 5-2 win for Detroit.

KEY STATISTICS

  Red Wings Leafs
Corsi Close % 50.6% (14th) 43.4% (28th)
5v5 GF/60 2.17 (15th) 1.94 (23rd)
5v5 GA/60 2.17 (16th) 1.97 (7th)
PDO 99.9 (18th) 101.8 (4th)
     
  Red Wings Leafs
5v4 GF/60 5.98 (14th) 7.90 (4th)
5v4 SF/60 55.7 (8th) 53.7 (13th)
4v5 GA/60 5.34 (9th) 6.92 (23rd)
4v5 SA/60 45.5 (5th) 59.8 (25th)
Penalty Differential -12 (26th) -17 (29th)

via ExtraSkater and NHL 

Hey, look. The Leafs have had a great week possession-wise and have moved up to 28th in Corsi Close % and into a tie for 29th in penalty differential!

(via reader @PunchyBlue)

The Red Wings at evens are a pretty underwhelming team, pretty mediocre in just about everything. Mike Babcock has the unenviable task of coaching a team with ten players over the age of 30, injuries to top players Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, a PDO explosion over the last couple of weeks, and injuries to basically everybody except for the role guys.

Here are the four Red Wings that have dressed in all 37 games for Detroit:

  • Jakub Kindl
  • Joakim Andersson
  • Drew Miller
  • Kyle Quincey

That's about to be shrunk to three players since Kindl will be the healthy scratch tonight.

Forgive me if I'm not shaking in my boots, but they're mostly healthy now, with the exception of Howard, Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss. Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist are questionable for tonight. They'll finally get Danny DeKeyser back tonight. You can't use one or two injured players as an excuse, but when half your team goes down, you can start to understand why a once-dominant team is sort of lagging. The absurdly weak conference is probably going to punch the Wings ticket to the playoffs for the 23rd straight year, rather than anything they've actually done.

MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP

Daily Faceoff has Mark Fraser in the lineup, but Chris Johnston said their attendance at the Leafs' optional skate this morning means that the Leafs will keep the same lineup as against Phoenix. DF also confused Trevor Smith and Jerred Smithson, but we'll let that slide:

James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond - Peter Holland - Joffrey Lupul
David Clarkson - Jay McClement - Nik Kulemin
Jerry D'Amigo - Jerred Smithson - Troy Bodie

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
John-Michael Liles - Morgan Rielly

Can we talk about Peter Holland: Miracle Worker for a second? Last game he actually helped a fourth liner score a goal. He still has a rather small time on ice sample and has bounced between different lines so I can't get a good read on his possession numbers, but he has passed every conceivable eye test and has put up points.

I'll have a full post on Holland next week. He had a zone exit against the Phoenix Coyotes that went unnoticed. The Coyotes had sustained pressure in the Leafs end for more than a minute, and lost the ensuing faceoff after a stoppage, but Holland blocked a shot, made a move, and got the puck safely out of the zone. I'd have a video of it here, but GameCentre's blackout restrictions are a piece of shit and they won't let me watch a replay of a game that happened Thursday because it wasn't 48 hours ago.

RED WINGS LINEUP

Per DailyFaceoff:

Tomas Jurco - Pavel Datsyuk - Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Tomas Tatar
Danny Cleary - Luke Glendening - Patrick Eaves
Todd Bertuzzi - Riley Sheahan - Jordin Tootoo

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Dan DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey
Brendan Smith - Brian Lashoff

That fourth line is made up of players that will probably be remembered for something other than their hockey ability. Riley Sheahan was arrested last fall for driving drunk while wearing a teletubby costume. Can't really top that.

I have a lot of admiration for two young Slovaks on the wings. I covered Tomas Jurco at two Memorial Cups, and other than being incredibly skilled, he's also a hilarious quote. Hopefully his call-up will make 24/7 a little more interesting next week. Tomas Tatar was the top Slovak forward on that World Junior team in Ottawa that upset the Americans in the quarterfinals.

Tatar is also leading Wings regulars in Corsi, and does so despite not getting a regular zone deployment advantage. I'd like to see Randy Carlyle match up the Leafs top line against that prospective Wings second line, rather than the first. Pavel Datsyuk is the kind of two-way player that can absolutely murder Kessel in possession, as him and JvR are still quite weak on defence in their own end and Kadri isn't good enough at that end to cover for them.

I'd give the Leafs a slight edge on bottom four defence. Kronwall and Ericsson do a decent-enough job handling the toughs, but the rest are either close to 50% Corsi or below. Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly could thrive in the right matchups tonight.

(Red Wings page on Extra Skater)

STARTING GOALIES

(and a paragraph as useful as most goalie statistics)

James Reimer versus Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson still has somewhat of a cult following in Toronto, which I find incredibly odd. I don't think a lot of people know the best way to judge goalies isn't by the number of great saves they make. Gustavsson is so often caught out of position that he makes a disproportionate share of tough-looking saves. The most recent one was that "highlight-reel" glove save where he was able to successfully prevent a puck from being scored on him banked off his back.

The Leafs and the Red Wings are on CBC tonight at 7 Eastern.

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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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