Five Leafs thoughts - April 29th Playoffs!!!1 edition

Cam Charron
April 29 2013 04:19AM

A few thoughts to tide us over until Wednesday. Leading up to Game One, we'll run a series of previews along with some of our own in-house analytics to break down Eastern Conference Series D as best we can in the coming days.

No. 1 - Forget it Jake, it's Boston

I like using that clip wherever I can.

Our super series poll predictor can be found on the right column. The Boston Bruins are as unfortunate an opponent as the Maple Leafs could draw in the post-season. Not only are they a team that's eaten up Toronto over the last two seasons, but I think a lot of people may focus on the stories of "FORMER LEAF" and "FORMER BRUIN" rather than paying attention to actual match ups.

Case in point:

To be clear, Tyler Seguin played about 2.61% of his ice time this season against Phil Kessel. That is in fact, a matchup Randy Carlyle prefers over Claude Julien. Maybe a more suitable question would have been to ask how the strategy changes matching up against a speedy line like Kessel's or Nazem Kadri's as opposed to a more restricted line like Mikhail Grabovski's. I don't know… anything but the Kessel trade. It's been four seasons and none of the players involved made the deal. It shouldn't be a thing anymore.

Tuukka Rask was also a former Toronto Maple Leaf draft pick, traded for some other goalie. Did you know this? Maybe I did, maybe I didn't.

No. 2 - The series will be on CBC (duh)

Here is how the NHL will broadcast "Series D" along with all the times that I'm sure you've commit to memory:

So Games Six and Seven, should we get that far, will be a back-to-back but that will be the only one in the series. What I found interesting this season, and this is hardly Leafs-related, is that CBC chose not to broadcast the Vancouver Canucks series out West, opting instead for Montreal and Ottawa. In the past, generally CBC has let the Canadiens be shown exclusively by TSN and RDS. In 2010, the national broadcaster, that gets to choose the first two series to air, went with Sidney Crosby vs. Ottawa instead of Alexander Ovechkin vs. Montreal. Unfortunately for the CBC, Montreal and Washington played to a thrilling seven-game upset series while the Penguins dispatched the Senators in six games.

CBC naturally took Toronto first, as they represent the largest market nationwide and opted to stagger starts with Habs-Sens. The only conflict will be May 12, with what is scheduled to be Game 7 of "Series B" and Game 6 of "Series D". Since that is a Sunday, the NHL will be flexible with start times should it result in a conflict.

Oh by the way…

In case you didn't know already, the Leafs will get CBC's "A" crew with Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy and Scott Oake. I don't think I've ever consciously watched a Leafs playoff game that wasn't accompanied by Bob Cole, so this is a bit of a shock. That said, Leaf fans do need to give Jim Hughson a chance. He is an outsider, coming all the way in across from those mountains way out West, but not too many play-by-play guys can break down the technical side of a game like he does. He's very analytical about match ups, will point out when a change has been made to a certain line or pairing and catches onto coaching strategies quite early into the game.

Also, here's a reminder to play Playoff Bingo.

No. 3 - Shot differentials and scoring chances

I've been counting scoring chances for and against Toronto all year, and in case you were wondering on the final season tally…

  Leafs Opponents
Scoring Chances 610 619
Even Strength Chances 469 484

The Maple Leafs did do better in "scoring chances" than they did in shots for and against, or Corsi. Since we don't have numbers for all teams we can't figure out exactly how they stack up in this range, but considering the Leafs got 53.1% of all the goals in their games and just 49.6% of all the scoring chances, it's tough to deny that they did get some help along the way from the Hockey Gods.

Now I'll get into it later this week about individual matchups, but this seems fairly worrying:

  Leafs Bruins
Scoring Chances 35 63
Even Strength Chances 27 54

No. 4 - The Leafs versus The Bruins this season

In case you need your memory jogged, here are our links to game recaps between the Leafs and the Bruins this year:

Game One: The Bruins controlled the flow of the game from the opening faceoff, steadily out-chancing Toronto and scoring an ugly goal from Chris Bourque early in the first. James Reimer made 31 saves and kept the score close, with the Leafs losing 1-0.

Recap: Leafs outclassed, drop 1-0 decision to Bruins

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Game Two: Toronto buzzes the Boston net early, but Anton Khudobin stands tall and the Bruins strike twice in the second to take a 3-1 lead. Colton Orr takes a dumb penalty in the third, nearly erasing all hope before Jay McClement tips in a Mikhail Grabovski shot. Tyler Seguin adds an empty net goal.

Recap: Bruin'd. Boston beats Toronto 4-2

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Game Three: The Leafs manage just 13 shots at net, but get three goals. Khudobin has an off-night, and Frazer McLaren scores a goal by banking the puck off his own skate and in. Reimer stops 31 shots at even strength and the Bruins fail to convert on each of their 11 scoring chances. The Leafs win for the first time in nine games versus the Bruins.

Recap: Combo breakers - Depleted Leafs snap skid against Bruins with 3-2 win

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Game Four: In the re-match, the Leafs get killed at even strength, out-chanced 15-6 and out-shot 29-25. Despite this, the Bruins had to play catchup, with Patrice Bergeron scoring a late goal, sending the game to a shootout. Tyler Bozak, Tyler Seguin and Bergeron were successful, giving the Bruins a 3-2 win.

Recap: Goaltender helps Leafs pick up a point against Boston

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No. 5 - Randy Carlyle for Jack Adams?

I've seen some buzz in some columns. This is a drum that Steve Simmons keeps hammering and I don't quite get it. Any coach can get lucky with a goaltender in 48 games. Want proof?

  Wins Losses OTL Points
2011 Leafs - Last 48 Games 24 17 7 55
2013 Leafs - Last 48 Games 26 17 5 57

I chose that block of games because that was when Ron Wilson got to live with a healthy James Reimer, back when Reimer broke into the league. He went 20-10-5 with the Leafs, with a .921 save percentage and a .931 save rate at even strength.

Randy Carlyle joined the team for another block of games where Reimer was healthy. Reimer this season has a .924 save rate (mostly thanks to the improved penalty kill) but is also .924 at even strength. Think Carlyle is helping the shots against him?

Some shot differential numbers, scraped from these pages, and Hockey Analysis:

  Corsi Tied % Team Shot % Team Save % PDO
2011 Leafs - Last 48 Games 46.1% 9.3% 0.925 1.018
2013 Leafs - Last 48 Games 43.8% 10.6% 0.924 1.030

If that Leaf team played in this season, they'd have made the postseason, actually. 55 points with 21 regulation or overtime wins, and the Leafs would have a date with the Montreal Canadiens as the 7th seed.

The argument isn't that Ron Wilson should have won a Jack Adams for his work. Clearly, the Leafs over his tenure were flawed, but I don't see how the current Leafs are any less flawed and it seems like Carlyle is picking up a lot of the credit for the way Reimer has played, despite Reimer's even strength numbers under Carlyle being virtually identical to what they were under Wilson.

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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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