March 20 2013 03:05PM
The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost five straight games.
Qualifier: The Toronto Maple Leafs last five games have all come against playoff teams.
Addendum: If the Toronto Maple Leafs are a playoff team, they'll have to beat playoff opponents.
Tonight they play Tampa Bay, a team outside of playoff position. The team has had a tough schedule of late, facing Boston, Pittsburgh twice and Winnipeg twice, and coming back from two 4-1 deficits to boot to force OTs.
Last time the Leafs faced the Bolts, they got off to a slow start, and Ben Scrivens allowed two sloppy ones in a 4-2 loss. You can read the recap from that game here.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are many things. They are an enigma, a team built on young stars, but frequently change their coaching tactics and waive useful players. Think of them like the Toronto Maple Leafs in a slightly deeper shade of blue and with a better minor-league system.
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EDT
|Corsi Tied %||45.1% (25th)||44.9% (26th)|
|5v5 GF/GA Ratio||1.15 (9th)||1.00 (13th)|
|Team Shooting %||10.61%||10.21%|
|Team Save %||0.917||0.920|
|PP Success||19.6% (12th)||17.1% (19th)|
|5v4 GF/60||5.63 (17th)||5.68 (16th)|
|5v4 SF/60||33.7 (30th)||48.7 (13th)|
|PK Success||83.2% (11th)||84.8 (6th)|
|4v5 GA/60||4.83 (5th)||5.10 (6th)|
|4v5 SA/60||49.5 (20th)||44.0 (9th)|
Here's the thing I don't get… what's happened to Tampa's powerplay? I watched their game against Philadelphia on Monday because I noticed that they have the lowest shot rate in the NHL with the man advantage, which is baffling considering the young talent they have.
It seems like the Bolts try too hard to force the perfect shot. I haven't found an analysis really deep on the issue (if you know a good Bolts blogger who has looked at their PP from an Xs and Os perspective, I'm all ears) but I liked this line on Raw Charge comparing their unit to a "bubble hockey game". There's little movement, and also difficulty to gain the zone effectively.
At even strength, Tampa are just as bad as the Leafs at controlling play, which is odd considering they were the third best team in the NHL in Fenwick Close in the 2011 season, when they also caught lightning in a bottle with a hot Dwayne Roloson and came to within one game of the Finals. Since then, they've changed their systems and the results aren't positive.
Bolts blogger Kyle Alexander summarized some of the issue:
@camcharron Its like he doesnt care about it any more. Bolts are outshot almost every game. Stresses scoring chances now.— Kyle Alexander (@kalexanderSM101) March 20, 2013
@camcharron Also, playing the 1-3-1 inflates possession metrics. They don't play it much any more.— Kyle Alexander (@kalexanderSM101) March 20, 2013
Guy Boucher gets some credit for being a pretty good coach, but I think he accomplishes "less" with "more" in his lineup than most other coaches. Coming into the season I saw the Bolts as an absolute force on the back-end with the addition of Matt Carle and a healthy Sami Salo to a group that included the monstrous Victor Hedman. While the loss of Carle is just one of the things that's stung the Philly Flyers this season, the Bolts aren't restricting shots any better without Carle in the lineup.
You should play the strategy that helps you inflate possession metrics. As with the powerplay, if you sit around waiting for the perfect shot, it ain't going to come.
Here were the lines last game. Mark Masters tweeted that Benoit Pouliot isn't back yet, and they will start Mathieu Garon, but the bottom six is a mixed and matched most nights:
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Cory Conacher - Tom Pyatt - Alex Killorn
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Dana Tyrell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - BJ Crombeen
Sami Salo - Victor Hedman
Eric Brewer - Matt Carle
Keith Aulie - Radko Gudas
I've really liked what I've seen out of Alex Killorn this year, but confused as to why the team waived Adam Hall, who was an effective defensive winger for them. The usage chart looks pretty bleak, because the Bolts' best forwards have been seeing the highest Corsi Rel QoC as well, which sort of defeats the purpose of using a third line in heavy zone-matching situations to shelter your forwards. If you're running three centremen, you can at least give one line easy minutes, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
On "D", the saving grace is the Victor Hedman, Sami Salo grouping who play the tough minutes and get the best results. Other than that it's a bit of a firedrill most nights in the Bolts end and they give up a lot of shots.
Guy Boucher isn't huge on player match ups, preferring a zone match but it doesn't seem like many coaches have had issues getting their top guys out against Steven Stamkos. The Leafs should be able to get new top pairing Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson lots of minutes against young Stamkos.
Interested to see where Jake Gardiner ends up? Looks like he'll be next to Liles:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Matt Frattin
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nik Kulemin
Leo Komarov - Jay McClement - Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - John-Michael Liles
Mark Fraser - Cody Franson
Masters says Reimer gets the start. Randy Carlyle has been flipping guys around in practice all week, but I think he'll stick with the units that started against the Jets. There's no other way to otherwise have Lupul-Kadri-Frattin together and they looked real dangerous on Saturday. (via Mirtle, Liles will play on the right side)
I'll have a full recap within 45 minutes to an hour of the game ending here at Leafs Nation.
Game Day Notes:
- Jake Gardiner overcomes concussion haze in return (Jonas Siegel, TSN)
- Maple Leafs goalies trying to cover all the angles (Sean Fitz-Gerald, National Post)
- An Article for Today (Hope in the Big Smoke) - Good stuff on Holzer-Gardiner-Carlyle