Leafs Random Thoughts

Gus Katsaros
February 12 2013 09:54AM

I figured there would be plenty of James Reimer posts today, so I decided to string some thoughts together, on Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin, James van Riemsdyk and the Leafs' powerplay.

Kessel and Kadri Should Watch Each Other

I think there’s a mutual learning opportunity by Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri watching each other. Kadri attracts a lot of attention and often draws multiple players to him. This has forced him to learn to play in tight spaces and operate with little time. The ability to operate tight in traffic could rub off on Kessel who attracts such similar attention in a concept I put together in my post last week. Kessel’s passing ability gained momentum since the focus on scoring has lifted. Time to build on that.

Kadri on the other hand should watch Kessel fire pucks from the top of the circle and start applying that with his own shot. Kadri has a slightly elongated wind up on a lethal wrist shot. He could incorporate some of the snap Kessel has in a short release and start firing from the slot with more regularity.

It’s also good to see Kessel utilizing those distribution skills.

Matt Frattin and Shooting Percentage

Matt Frattin is becoming a prime example of a theory that I have been bouncing around for a while. I feel players with a higher net presence pouncing on rebounds, contributing with tips using sticks – just like Frattin’s goal against the Flyers – or where by chance the stick, leg, buttocks, or whatever other body part just happens to be there when the puck hits it and goes in is a contributing factor to higher shooting percentages.

I haven’t approached investigating this any further and I’m not justifying a dizzying 38.9% currently sported by the Leafs winger, rather that players that spend the majority of their tenure in front of the net or in scoring areas may get a slight boost in shooting percentage. I suspect the overall results would be negligible at best.

Still .. get to the net. Frattin has benefitted greatly by that adhering to that.

An interesting tidbit on Frattin’s scoring via Arpon Basu. 

JvR

James Van Reimsdyk has scored four goals, half of his season output in the first period of games in 2013. Two goals were scored on the power play, a point that we will return to shortly.

The goal against Philadelphia was made extra special due the defenseman burned being former Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, the player traded for the burgeoning power forward (with a gif of the sequence here). The goal itself was quite indicative of some of the issues behind both players being dealt.

The Leafs had the need for size up front and found this big body that drives the net and is a net presence without the puck. With size comes a predetermined notion of inherent toughness and ‘JvR’ didn’t really fit that bill, although he applies a physical edge to his game, he’s more effective as a skilled net and slot presence. The reward has been eight goals so far that includes time on the first line in the absence of Joffrey Lupul.

Luke Schenn’s timely overzealous aggressiveness coupled with the inability to pivot or recover after he’s beaten or get in the way of rushing forwards are some of the traits that led to a plateau in his development. Falling over when not being able to contain a speeding JvR from the outside, driving the inside contained all the elements outlining that trade.

POWER PLAY

After the game Saturday night game versus Montreal, there was a point made about the Leafs using prime scoring players in the late 5v3 situation. I can’t recall who the analyst was that suggested that in a shortened season, without the possibility to practice that situation often, teams may take every opportunity to get in some practical application.

Fast forward to the Flyers game where the fourth line and non-regulars on the power play appeared with the game out of hand, and it makes the commentary even stranger. Randy Carlyle spoke about giving time, rewarding those players.

I found that Saturday night comment odd  and it stuck – even though I can’t recall who made it. I needed to check that out, because it didn’t sound right.

And it wasn’t.

According to the NHL, the Leafs have played the most 5v3 time so far this season 7:31 a full 90 seconds more than second ranking Los Angeles Kings. Toronto has scored twice, half of the leading NJ Devils with four goals.

They are also the first team to hit double digits 5v3 opportunities this season, their 10th versus Philadelphia. LA, however, has only had half of the opportunities (5) amassing 6:01 5v3.

The only NHL team that hasn’t had any 5v3 time is the Nashville Predators.

Toronto has also played the third most 5v4 time (93:38) with the second most opportunities (54 – T-2nd with San Jose) and an NHL leading 25 in the first period. They’ve scored 14 goals in the first period, three on the power play – a 12% efficiency. Nazem Kadri has one and van Riemsdyk has two.

I recognize that analysts have a difficult job coming up with content on the spot, but if you’re going to justify using prime scorers late in a blowout game by claiming to use the time to practice, do the homework.

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Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator for McKeen's Hockey. Follow him on twitter @KatsHockey or his blog Kats Krunch at mckeenshockey.com
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