February 18 2013 07:51AM
Screencap via the Florida Panthers' main page. You get get to this game for very cheap.
Here's a good mantra: "Manage your losses".
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of two teams in the NHL without having suffered a defeat in overtime or the shootout this season, the other being Pittsburgh. About 25% of NHL games go to overtime, and that doesn't vary when there are more divisional or conference games.
Yet the Leafs have gone the distance just once: an overtime win against Buffalo much earlier this season, where Matt Frattin scored with about a second to go in the OT period to save the game from the agony of the shootout. The Florida Panthers meanwhile have managed to get past the regulation 60 minutes five times this year… and all five times have been in their last six games.
Not only that, but Florida's management got a lot of credit for turning around the franchise last season in a season that culminated in the team's first playoff appearance since 2000—and they took the Eastern Conference champion Devils to a seventh game overtime to boot.
That said, live by the overtime loss, die by the overtime loss, I believe the saying goes in hockey. The Panthers lost Games Six and Seven of their playoff appearance in overtime, which is fitting because they never would have made the playoffs in the first place if the NHL didn't give out points for losing games. No team ever benefit more from the rule that a tie at the end of regulation gave a team a point: Florida had 18 overtime and shootout losses, most in NHL history. Consider this: the 2012 Florida Panthers were 20th in the league in regulation wins, tied with Colorado and Buffalo, behind division rival Winnipeg, and behind Calgary. None of those four teams made the playoffs.
So, Manage Your Losses became the team's slogan. They have four this season. That somehow turns a 4-10 record into a record where you can say "they're two games below .500". But they really aren't, and the NHL has managed to water down the league so much that ".500" means nothing. 23 of 30 NHL teams were above .500 last season. 21 teams are above .500 this season.
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM EST
TV: Sportsnet Ontario
|Fenwick Close||46.83% (24th)||45.02% (27th)|
|Team Shooting %||7.5%||10.1%|
|Team Save %||0.898||0.938|
|PP Success||17.9% (16th)||14.5% (24th)|
|5v4 GF/60||5.7 (15th)||4.5 (25th)|
|5v4 SF/60||48.2 (15th)||48.7 (13th)|
|PK Success||74.6% (26th)||80.0% (21st)|
|4v5 GA/60||7.5 (20th)||6.5 (18th)|
|4v5 SA/60||44.4 (12th)||50.7 (21st)|
The Florida Panthers are not a particularly good hockey team. They are the worst team in the NHL by goal differential at minus-18. As of Sunday evening, they were the 7th worst team in the NHL by the puck-possession measure "Fenwick Close". They have not shot well this season, putting just 7.5% of their shots in the opposition's net and they have not gotten particularly good goaltending, with just an .898 save percentage at even strength.
Their goaltenders, Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, were much better for them last season, but the thing about being Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen mean that eventually you will begin to play like Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. That is to say neither goalie is bad, but Theodore is average, and Clemmensen is mediocre. There is a difference between that and "good".
Clemmensen last season had a .922 even strength save percentage and Theodore was a .928. They filled in well for Tomas Vokoun, who left his starting job in Sunrise to pursue his hopes of winning a Stanley Cup as a backup elsewhere.
I had to write this preview early, so as of Monday morning, there's no indication of which goalie will get the start. I presume Theodore. Here are the lines the Panthers ran with Saturday against Tampa Bay:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller
Jack Skille - Shawn Matthias - Marcel Goc
Alex Kovalev - Jarred Smithson - George Parros
Dmitry Kulikov - Brian Campbell
Filip Kuba - Mike Weaver
Erik Gudbranson - Tyson Strachan
First thing I noticed was "that's the strangest-looking fourth line I've ever seen". Kovalev, yes, that Alex Kovalev, has also played recently with Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky, but it looks like Kevin Dineen decided to flip everything around last game, which was a 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning.
Second thing I noticed was "woah, the Panthers run two pairings with guys on their off side. Even the Leafs never got that crazy." It's true. Kulikov and Campbell are both left shots, while Gudbranson and Strachan are right side shots. Indeed, those have been the pairings that Dineen has gone with in the last few games. Ed Jovanovski's been hurt, and they traded Keaton Ellerby, so that left them with about five reasonable NHL defencemen once you remember that Filip Kuba only got a contract because he:
a) was an All-Star with the Minnesota Wild in 2004 who hosted the game but didn't have anybody good on the team
b) played next to Erik Karlsson in Ottawa last season
When you look at Florida's player usage chart (via @theninjagreg) Kuba's name is in the middle of a big red dot indicating a very poor relative Corsi rate. Pucks seem to whiz past him when he's on the blue line:
The Panthers only guys in the blue who have played somewhat tough minutes are Jovanovski, Mueller, Huberdeau, Kovalev and Weiss. One weird trend is that they seem to force a lot of face-offs in the offensive zone (hence why so many players have an over 50% offensive zone start rate), which is counter to their poor Fenwick Close score. Eventually one number or the other will sort itself out.
They like to give the Huberdeau-Shore-Mueller line the prime offensive zone minutes, but realistically the line that's real dangerous is whichever one Shawn Matthias and Marcel Goc is on. Both players can hurt you. Stephen Weiss is also a dangerous scorer, usually cracking 20 goals and 40 points, but he got hurt earlier and has yet to find his groove this season. He has only 12 shots in 10 games.
The Leafs last game:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Leo Komarov
Clarke MacArthur - Nazem Kadri - Colton Orr
Frazer McLaren - Jay McClement - Mike Brown
Dion Phaneuf - Korbinian Holzer
John-Michael Liles - Mike Kostka
Cody Franson - Mark Fraser
Remember when Colton Orr played a bunch of minutes alongside Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur and that line generated nothing? Here's hoping that Randy Carlyle doesn't try to catch lightning in a bottle and roll with those same lines. Sure, the Leafs won on Saturday, but escaped an Ottawa roster that was beset with rookies and AHLers replacing the Senators' best players.
The Leafs have been playing with some frightfully high percentages this season (more on that later this week) and unless they get better at controlling the shot-clock, the team won't win three out of every five games. The Leafs are producing beyond their means, stopping pucks beyond their means, and winning one-goal games at a disproportionate rate.
That said, Grabovski looked excellent Saturday. You get the sense Phil Kessel needs to have a breakout game against one of these Southeast Division opponents in the next couple of days: they're um, not good at goaltending. Unfortunately, the Leafs have yet to put up anything more than a three spot in any of the five games they've played against Southeast Division foes. Perhaps that changes tonight. Florida's roster isn't really deep and the Leafs should have at least two of their top three lines winning the possession battle, with Grabovski presumably losing his facing tough minutes against either Matthias or Weiss.
Puck drop is at 7:30. I will be by later with a recap.
Lines information from Left Wing Lock
Game Day Notes:
- How the Leafs are filling their injury void (Michael Traikos, National Post)
- Carlyle's trust in enforcers grows by the game (James Mirtle, Globe & Mail)
- Making the most of February (Jon Steitzer, Maple Leaf Hot Stove)
- The Terrible Tyler Bozak (David Johnson, Hockey Analysis)
- New charts added to David's site as well (Hockey Analysis)