March 18 2013 02:59PM
Something funny happened on Joffrey Lupul's second goal Saturday night. As you can see from the video above, Colton Orr gets in quick, makes a hit that forces a turnover and allowing Nazem Kadri to recover the puck, set up Joffrey Lupul for a Leafs goal. Easy, right, just how Randy Carlyle drew it up, with Orr creating space for the young Kadri.
The problem is that when he's playing away from Colton Orr, Nazem Kadri scores more goals, records more points, and fires more pucks at the net, it's close, but Kadri's been better away from Orr this season:
|TOI||GF/20 MIN||Goals/20 MIN||Points/20 MIN||Attempts/20 MIN|
That "goals for/20 minutes" figure is pretty key. Orr and Kadri haven't been on the ice to give up a goal against together yet on the season. I think what's important is offence in this context, and whether Orr actually adds to Kadri's offence.
Most of Orr's hits this season seem to be after the opponent has already made a play. Looking back to the last time Kadri and Orr played together in a game, against Tampa Bay, I can find three hits where Orr and Kadri were both on the ice:
In both cases, Orr lands the check by "finishing his check". I think "finishing your check" was good at wearing down the opposition back during the days when players smoked between intermissions, offseason training regimens involved being able to do 20 push ups and there was generally a huge gap in physical ability between the top guy and the second guy.
NHL players can play 30 minutes a night, can play back-to-backs, late into OT and don't seem to suffer too much from fatigue or get worn down a lot. I haven't seen a shirtless hockey player who wasn't absolutely cut, or a hockey player in shorts who didn't have calf muscles the same circumference as milk jugs.
Two instances against Tampa Bay, of Orr's three recorded hits. The first two are just tame plays, with the Lightning player easily getting a clear. In this first instance, the Lightning were able to turn a routine Matt Carle clear into a 4-on-2 that turned out to be offside, because Orr was too slow in getting to Carle before he made a play on the puck, even though he bobbled the incoming pass:
The second instance, Orr lands a hit on Brian Lee as he dumps the puck in for a change:
In both instances, the act of hitting didn't change anything on the play. This next sequence, off an offensive zone draw, shows how Orr's limited speed does affect Kadri inversely in the offensive end. Sorry for the blurry images, you know how it is with GameCentre Live.
Orr engages Lee here, rather than attempting to recover the loose puck:
The puck then ends up behind Tampa's net and Kadri is forced to recover it on his lonesome:
Overmatched, Kadri cedes control of the puck, and Orr, despite being in a good place to support defensively along the right wing boards, is turned around and backchecking before Tampa even breaks out of the zone:
The use of Colton Orr leads me to think that the Leafs are seriously undermanned at wing. While Nik Kulemin is getting demoted to the fourth line next game, according to David Alter, Orr is jumping up to play alongside Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski.
Nothing like jumpstarting Mikhail Grabovski by letting him play with a possession black hole. Kulemin, by the way, is fifth on the Leafs in even strength points per 60 minutes at 2.12, behind just Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel. Orr is 11th at 1.04, ahead of just Leo Komarov.
Evidently, we're going to see every tweaking of the bottom nine until Randy Carlyle finally decides to split up Bozak and Phil Kessel.
By the way, the Leafs are 15-12-2 after 29 games this season. After 29 games last season under Ron Wilson, the Leafs were 15-11-3. So much for that much improved, much tougher squad to play against.