February 27 2013 09:34PM
I commented after the game that nothing is at stake with the Toronto Maple Leafs, just the prime years of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Mikhail Grabovski. Those three are legitimate stars in the National Hockey League, if only they could be surrounded with a supporting cast to help them win.
In some ways, they do. Clarke MacArthur is a versatile player. Nik Kulemin has stopped shooting, but he's still strong on defence and moving the puck around in the offensive zone. Jay McClement is a top defensive centreman and he's stabilized the Maple Leafs penalty kill.
Colton Orr played a career-high 14:55 at even strength in this game. That was more than Kessel and van Riemsdyk. The Leafs were out-shot 32-21 at even strength. In shot attempts at net, or "Corsi" events, the Habs had 74 events to Toronto's 56.
-I write about scoring chances on this blog a lot, and it's our way of visualizing whether matches are success, as well as gauging where the team stands mixing in quality shots and puck possession. Possession, however, told the story tonight. The system that keeps opponents to the outside taking long shots came back to bite the Leafs tonight hard. All four Montreal goals were not taken on shots deemed "scoring chances". The first three were tipped in front and Max Pacioretty scored on a good shot from a real weird angle on a shot that shouldn't have gone in.
-Overall, the scoring chances were even. They were 10-10 on the night, and Toronto had a 10-8 advantage at even strength. That didn't tell the story, though. It's not that Montreal was "being kept the outside" as people have been trying to tell me all year. Those tips, those blocks, those bounces in front just aren't resulting on the opponent getting their stick on the puck in a good area. I saw a number of botched odd man rushes or swings and misses at pucks. Max Pacioretty completely whiffed on one on the 5-minute powerplay where the puck just flopped over his stick. He then scored when Ben Scrivens kicked a rebound of Pacioretty's shin pad. That's just how the hockey Gods work sometime.
-Some Corsi numbers for the Leafs. The left number is shot attempts 'for' while on the ice, the right number is shot attempts 'against' while on the ice.
Leafs F for @camcharron : Orr 14-15, Grabovski 21-23, Bozak 10-13, Kadri 15-20, Kessel 12-19, Brown 2-1, all from Leafs' perspective.— Mathieu Roy (@Le_Matheux) February 28, 2013
-Highlights for the Leafs in scoring chance differential? Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grabovski each had great games. Kadri set up two scoring chances and had an attempt on a third. Grabovski had a team-high six shots on goal, including three from in close (one was a penalty shot where he looked bad, but he still had to set up that play on his own).
-More highlights? Cody Franson and Mark Fraser matched up mostly with Kadri against the line of Tomas Plekanec, Brandon Prust and Brian Gionta. Somehow, that resulted in the Leafs winning that battle phenomenally, probably because Prust didn't seem too interested in playing hockey, leaving Plekanec and Gionta shorthanded for much of the game. Franson was +5/-0 on scoring chances. Fraser was +4/-1. Somehow he came away as a +2 and is still the NHL leader in that category, and hopefully he keeps this up to join such defensive luminaries as Jeff Schultz and Marek Malik.
-The first line looked bad, but what do you expect? The Leafs had 15 offensive zone face-off opportunities and Tyler Bozak was only out to take four of them. The fourth line got to have three, and the first line had to play defence all night against the Habs' top line. The Leafs first line also got limited minutes, no chances on the powerplay, and, again, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk had less ice-time at even strength than Colton Orr.
-It wouldn't bug me if Orr actually did something that involved protecting Kadri. Orr recorded two hits and zero shots. Kadri was hit three times, by P.K. Subban, Brandon Prust and Alexei Emelin. For each instance, Orr was on the ice, but the opponent was not deterred from hitting Nazem Kadri. It's a miracle that line wasn't a puck-possession black hole tonight but I did not see Colton Orr do a single thing worth having him out for nearly 15 minutes. He had one shot attempt (blocked) and MacArthur and Kadri picked up the bulk of the offence. Leo Komarov got involved with those three in the three games Orr was absent and Kadri looked like an all-star.
-Again, Nazem Kadri was hit by P.K. Subban, Brandon Prust and Alexei Emelin with Orr on the ice, and he did nothing. Here's a breakdown of meaningless Leaf fights courtesy of Adam Gretz at CBS.
-Lowlight? Dion Phaneuf and Korbinian Holzer lost another matchup. Sure, it's tough to play against top lines every night, but David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty should not be a huge threat. They're dangerous, but so are all first lines, and it's the top pairing's job to keep the team even in puck-possession, scoring chances and goals when they're on the ice and making sure the play is going the other way. Holzer just can't play. The gaps are big, he loses his man too much, and it has an adverse effect on Phaneuf who usually controlled possession last season. Holzer's the variable, and he's not a top pairing NHL defenceman. It's okay, few are.
-The speed of the play factored into Mike Brown getting five and ten on the hit on Josh Gorges at the end of the first. Still a bad call, but it's not the first that the Leafs have put up with and these things even out over the course of the season. At least they didn't get a bad call during a game where everything else was going right and it cost the team a game.
-Leafs individual scoring chance differentials. Left column indicates the number of chances at 5-on-5 each player was on the ice for. Middle column indicates the number of chances against his net. Right column indicates the differential. I'm tallying them up after Games 12, 24 and 36 in the 48-game season.
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||1||3||-2|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
-And team totals. Parenthetical numbers are even strength totals.
|Toronto (EV)||3 (3)||3 (3)||4 (4)||10 (10)|
|Montreal (EV)||2 (2)||6 (4)||2 (2)||10 (8)|
LeafsNation Three Stars
- Max Pacioretty
- Alex Galchenyuk
- Mikhail Grabovski