May 04 2013 12:42PM
The good news is that it doesn't appear the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to win Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with Frazer McLaren in the lineup. The bad news is that they'll try to win it without Clarke MacArthur.
Paul Hendrick tweeted out the projected lineup changes this morning: Ryan Hamilton and Matt Frattin in. Clarke MacArthur and Frazer McLaren out.
You aren't going to beat the Boston Bruins by going power-on-power or by hoping really hard that Phil Kessel breaks his "slump" against Chara. The depth of the Bruins' D remains their weak point. They won't have Andrew Ference in the lineup due to suspension and will have Dougie Hamilton with Wade Redden on their second pairing.
Joffrey Lupul - 1.082
Phil Kessel - 1.018
James van Riemsdyk - 1.007
Mikhail Grabovski - 0.899
Matt Frattin - 0.830
Nik Kulemin - 0.829
Nazem Kadri - 0.817
Clarke MacArthur - 0.802
Tyler Bozak - 0.566
Those are the top nine. You have the elite guys Lupul, Kessel and van Riemsdyk and five guys in that secondary range who will score 20-25 goals if you give them powerplay time and the occasional offensive situation.
Clarke MacArthur is on that list, and Clarke MacArthur belongs in the lineup as a player who can score a timely goal. Like Steve said, you aren't going to beat the Bruins by fighting fire with fire. You fight fire with water, and the Leafs can do that by using their deep core of scoring wingers to control the tempo against the lesser Bruins' players.
I'm sure Ryan Hamilton is a decent character and I'd rather have him in the lineup over Colton Orr, but over MacArthur? Hamilton scored just twice in the Toronto Marlies' playoff run. That's a small sample to argue on and the point isn't "Hamilton can't score in the playoffs" but the point is "the team doesn't need his scoring contributions to score in the playoffs". I think Hamilton maxes out in the NHL as a fourth line energy guy, and he's fine to have there, but how many energy guys do you want on a team that needs to score goals from the bottom nine?
Again, it's simplistic to say that "Kessel and Lupul need to be better" without pointing to any aspect of their game they need to improve. We know they didn't shoot the puck lots in Game 1 or create too many scoring chances, but that comes with the territory of playing against Chara and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins are trying to shut those guys down for a reason and Carlyle either needs to avoid the matchup or look for scoring elsewhere.
Carlyle would be straight up gambling at this point that his top guys can get the job done. It would be great if they did, but you're going to need to bank on a lot of luck.
And on defence…
Linked in that Paul Hendrick tweet above, is the news that John-Michael Liles will be scratched for Jake Gardiner while Ryan O'Byrne will take Mike Kostka's spot. The Leafs are thin on the right side right now. Cody Franson is apparently pretty banged up right now.
Gardiner can make O'Byrne look pretty good, according to the few games of scoring chances I have from this season with those two together, but it's too small a sample to make a compelling case that the Leafs are anything but as thin as the Bruins in depth-D right now. Best chance tonight is probably James Reimer, unfortunately.
Carlyle is going to need to find ways to adjust his roster to playing in the playoffs, not because the rules or the style of the game changes at some arbitrary point in the hockey season, but because you're late in the year, players are battling with fatigue and injuries and you aren't going to be able to get the lineup you want every night.
Should be fun, at least. Game runs at 7 Eastern on the national broadcaster, so don't come running to me if you don't know what channel the game is on. Leafs Nations HQ will have the game on our 13-inch computer screen and be serving plenty of leftover beer if you want to come over for the Nations playoff viewing party, but you're probably better off partying with Jeffler down at Maple Leaf Square.
Don't forget to sign up for Streakcred. $20 plus GST gets you into the official Nations playoff pick 'em game. Whoever has the longest streak of correct games wins the big prize, which is a trip for two to Oktoberfest. Right now the streak is 8. My best is 2, and you can probably beat that. Sign up here.
Post updated because I screwed up a statistic I quoted in the intro, badly.