Preview: Game #23 Devils @ Leafs - Meet the Devils

Cam Charron
March 04 2013 04:40PM

Bit of a short preview today. Lots of talk around the trade that sent Mike Brown to Edmonton for a conditional pick. My own belief is that this is a good move in a vacuum, in that the Leafs get a lottery ticket—as well as an extra roster spot—in return for a player who didn't necessarily contribute positively through his tenure in Toronto.

My knock on the trade is that of the three face-punchers employed by the Leafs yesterday, I think they traded the one who is best at skating and doing things other than face-punching. The move solidifies Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren's spots in the lineup and they play on a fourth line that takes away offensive zone opportunities from the Leafs top line and gets frequently stuck in their own end.

The move opens up a roster spot so the Leafs didn't have to send anybody back down to make room for Matt Frattin (who should return tonight). The only waiver ineligible forwards Toronto have are Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri, and neither of them have played at a level worth sending them down to the minors for seasoning. Komarov's a decent checker, and Kadri is the team's leading scorer.

Tonight, the Leafs send out their lineup against the New Jersey Devils, a team that keeps losing pieces bigger than Mike Brown, yet still somehow finds ways to win.

Broadcast Info:

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST

TV: Sportsnet Ontario

Numbers Game:

  New Jersey Toronto
Fenwick Close 51.63% (11th) 45.81% (25th)
5v5 GF/60 2.0 2.7
5v5 GA/60 1.9 2.2
5v5 GF/GA Ratio 1.07 (13th) 1.15 (7th)
Team Shooting % 8.81% 9.00%
Team Save % 0.923 0.930
Team PDO 1.011 1.020

Special Teams:

  New Jersey Toronto
PP Success 16.5% (17th) 16.5% (16th)
5v4 GF/60 4.5 (24th) 5.3 (17th)
5v4 SF/60 52.4 (6th) 48.8 (13th)
PK Success 78.9% (21st) 81.5% (15th)
4v5 GA/60 6.9 (21st) 6.0 (15th)
4v5 SA/60 41.2 (5th) 45.7 (11th)

Numbers via Behind the Net's Team and Fenwick pages and NHL.com

Setup:

New Jersey's a team whose record is consistent with their shot counts at five-on-five. The team's scoring mostly comes from their top guys in Patrick Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, but they do have a lot of depth. Winger Bobby Butler was claimed off waivers by Nashville today, so the Devils are also short a depth forwards. Here are the lines as best imagined by Tom Gulitti:

Ilya Kovalchuk - Stefan Matteau - Andrei Loktionov
Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier
Krys Barch - Stephen Gionta - Ryan Carter

Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Adam Larsson - Andy Greene
Marek Zidlicky - Henrik Tallinder

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg 

It's a bad sign when you look at a team's lines and can't figure out which is the first, second or third, which is why I'm glad we have Ninja Greg's usage charts to let us see. Generally, Elias and Clarkson have been kept against weaker competition, but more defensive minutes. They're the possession drivers for the Devils. There's very little zone-matching done by Peter DeBoer, and he spends much of his time on the bench trying to get his star player Kovalchuk as many minutes as possible. That alone will make it easy on Randy Carlyle to determine a matchup for him: Kovalchuk plays as much per game as Dion Phaneuf.

The Devils are getting some poor luck on special teams', but they're good at creating shots and preventing them. Good 5-on-5 team who could be sneaky good on specialty teams. Even with Zach Parise, they're left with some pretty good skill on the wings after acquiring Ponikarovsky and Loktionov for basically nothing of substance. Successful teams usually find ways to make do with the discarded bits from other teams rosters. 

There's a great Devils blog, In Lou We Trust, that had a bit more time to do an in-depth preview than I did. We'll have post-game coverage, as usual, with detailed scoring chance counts and general praise for Nazem Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski and Cody Franson.

...and Matt Frattin, I guess. I'm guessing the healthy scratch will be a game-time decision, but likely David Steckel as Jay McClement returns to the fourth line.

Although...

That seems to be a reasonable indication that Frattin won't be in the lineup. Look for McClement to keep playing with Grabovski and Kulemin, and Komarov alongside Kadri and MacArthur.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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