Preview: Game #24 Senators @ Leafs - Defensive struggle

Cam Charron
March 06 2013 03:25PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without Matt Frattin again tonight, and have been without Joffrey Lupul for most of the season. That said, neither player is the play-driver on its respective line. Frattin's scoring has been immediately replaced by Nazem Kadri himself who has gone from setting up goals to scoring them himself. James van Riemsdyk, though he's scored just once in his last five, has done everything Lupul was expected to do, and more, for the Leafs on their first line.

The Ottawa Senators, concurrently, have sent a good number of players to the all-injured All-Star game. They're without their best forward in Jason Spezza, best defenceman in Erik Karlsson and best goaltender in Craig Anderson. After a five-game win streak at the start of these issues, the Senators have dropped three straight games to Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders, although they've all been one-goal games.

Both teams have had some success this season. They each have 28 points through 23 games, both coaches Randy Carlyle and Paul MacLean slowing down the game. This has led to two previous games between these two teams that inspired the image above.

Here are some numbers and such:

By the Numbers:

  Ottawa Toronto
Fenwick Close 50.55% (17th) 44.79% (27th)
5v5 GF/60 1.8 2.8
5v5 GA/60 1.7 2.3
5v5 GF/GA Ratio 1.14 (12th) 1.17 (8th)
Team Shooting % 5.80% 10.20%
Team Save % 0.948 0.930
Team PDO 1.006 1.032

Special Teams:

  Ottawa Toronto
PP Success 16.5% (19th) 16.8% (15th)
5v4 GF/60 6.2 (12th) 5.5 (17th)
5v4 SF/60 58.0 (2nd) 48.4 (13th)
PK Success 89.8% (2nd) 82.7% (14th)
4v5 GA/60 3.7 (2nd) 5.7 (13th)
4v5 SA/60 54.3 (26th) 44.4 (9th)

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

Setup:

The Senators have a clear even strength advantage, although the first two games the Leafs and Sens played were so painfully boring that any Ottawa shot advantage failed to manifest into a scoring chance advantage. At even strength in both games, it was 7 chances to 7. The Phil Kessel line held the advantage for the Leafs in the first game, and it was Nazem Kadri's in the second. For the Senators, they got a great game out of Zack Smith in Game One and had a balanced attack in their top nine for the second contest.

[Game 1 Leafs-Sens recap - Game 2 Leafs-Sens recap]

The thing with the Senators is that they do have a lot of depth. There are a lot of blue circles on their usage chart, and not necessarily guys you've heard of: Peter Regin and Erik Condra are all putting together pretty good two-way seasons. Even without the .948 goaltending you'd have to think they'd be ranked pretty high in the NHL, since at the flip side, they haven't been scoring a heck of a lot of goals.

So this will again be a pretty closed game and probably pretty boring. There hasn't been a lot of space when these two teams have played each other this season. Both coaches know that their teams aren't good enough to win if they try and trade chances. Here are the Senators lines:

Daniel Alfredsson - Kyle Turris - Colin Greening
Milan Michalek - Mika Zibanejad - Erik Condra
Jakob Silfverberg - Peter Regin - Mark Stone
Dave Dzuirzynski - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Marc Methot - Eric Gryba
Chris Phillips - Andre Benoit
Patrick Wiercoch - Sergei Gonchar

Ben Bishop
Robin Lehner

Former Brandon Wheat King Mark Stone gets his first NHL regular season game tonight, and Milan Michalek returns to the Senators' lineup. Unclear as to whether Michalek will play up with Turris and Alfredsson or on the second line, but it shouldn't make too much of a difference.

Paul MacLean uses a lot of zone matching, so Smith will probably see a lot of Kadri tonight. This also gives the Leafs a chance to match up Tyler Bozak and their top line against Mika Zibanejad, which I think is the right move. Again, the issue is that the Leafs only have three lines they're comfortable skating with and the Senators are one of those teams that have four.

Leafs lines:

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Nik Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Jay McClement
Frazer McLaren - David Steckel - Colton Orr

Dion Phaneuf - Korbinian Holzer
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Kostka
Cody Franson - Mark Fraser

James Reimer
Ben Scrivens

Ben Bishop has a .917 career EV SV%, although that's up to .945 this season. Not a whole heck of a lot of games in the sample, so the Leafs have the advantage there with Reimer.

Finally, a note on the Senators' penalty-killing. You'll see that they have good success rates and don't give up a lot of goals, but that's mostly from goaltending. They've given up a tonne of shots on the PK and just nine goals. The Leafs' PK has less sexy numbers, but will prove to be more efficient in the long run.

Lines Info via Left Wing Lock

Game Notes:

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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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