January 12 2014 02:18PM
If you've been paying attention to the out of town scoreboard, the Leafs have gotten some rotten luck over the last week or so. It seems that every game has gone the wrong way, with teams behind the Leafs getting big wins against Western teams, and three points being distributed in unfortunate spots.
Toronto, to their credit, also dropped games to Carolina and Washington in regulation, but can reclaim a spot in the standings against another Eastern bubble team this Sunday against the New Jersey Devils. The Devils beat Florida a night ago in overtime on a goal from Marek Zidlicky to jump up to two points back of the last Wild Card spot... and send the Leafs down to 6th in the Wild Card standings, which no games in hand, and no tiebreakers against any of the teams.
A win and the Leafs can jump up to third in the Wild Card standings and a point out. While we thought December was a key stretch, the Leafs have picked a bad time to slump, playing against some key Eastern Conference teams before a West Coast trip next week. Billy Billy Billy... this is a biggie*.
|Corsi Close %||54.1% (3rd)||42.9% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||1.90 (26th)||2.12 (19th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.09 (9th)||2.43 (22nd)|
|5v5 Diff/60||-0.19 (17th)||-0.30 (21st)|
|PDO||98.6 (25th)||101.2 (7th)|
|5v4 GF/60||5.09 (22nd)||7.31 (6th)|
|5v4 SF/60||39.4 (30th)||54.7 (9th)|
|4v5 GA/60||4.03 (3rd)||6.54 (19th)|
|4v5 SA/60||44.1 (4th)||63.4 (29th)|
|Penalty Differential||-14 (24th)||-17 (27th)|
A NOTE ON THE DEVILS POSSESSION STATS
New Jersey's been a super interesting team for a few years now. Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher suggested (erroneously, we might add) that there are "inconsistencies" in the NHL's shot tracking data. There's not any evidence to suggest this is a big enough problem, but the New Jersey Devils scorekeepers have flummoxed analysts over the last couple of years.
The best indicator of this is Martin Brodeur's career save percentage, which is very pedestrian compared to Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour, or other dominant goalies of the 1990s. Among goalies with 200 games played between Lockout I and Lockout II, Brodeur was 8th in save percentage, tied with Sean Burke and Jeff Hackett at .912.
That said, Brodeur had a slightly higher save percentage on the road (.914) versus home (.911) Compare that to Roy who was a .913 at home and .912 on the road, or Hasek who was .925 at home and .919 on the road (and probably the best there ever was). The point is that goaltender road splits generally show a lower save percentage than home save percentage, but not in New Jersey.
Are they not counting enough shots in New Jersey? Tom Awad found that the New Jersey scorekeepers undercounted home shots by more than any team in the NHL. Since the Devils play a very slow, defensive style (at home as well on the road) that doesn't allow for many shots at all at either end, you have a greater chance for percentage discrepancies. Let's just say it's easier to get exactly 60% on a math test with 5 questions than one with 200 questions.
However, on the road, New Jersey also plays a low-event, high-possession style. Looking at road statistics alone, the Devils are leading the league in Corsi with a 54.4%, are 26th in shots for (25.8) and 1st in shots against (24.6). Their results have not really matched up with their possession in part because they have a poor powerplay, and in another part because Martin Brodeur has not had a great save percentage (at home or road) for years now. Cory Schneider has a .921 save percentage, Brodeur has a .902.
I think more because of their low-event style, and less because of their scorekeepers, do the Devils have wild percentages swings. They have, however, been slowly moving up the standings and despite one win in their first ten games, New Jersey have stayed alive thanks partially to playing in the weakest division in the league, and partially thanks to their nine overtime or shootout losses.
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
Several Leafs miss today's morning skate with flu/food poisoning, but expected to play tonight.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) January 12, 2014
Okay, cool. We won't know what the lineup will look like.
Reimer not on the only one missing from Leafs skate; Bozak, Fraser, Gleason, D'Amigo also absent— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 12, 2014
If it is, in fact, food poisoning, let's hope that the Leafs nutritionist on staff remembers to give Mark Fraser the exact same portions of whatever it was from now until the end of the year.
Jonathan Bernier is expected to grab the net.
Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Reid Boucher - Mike Sislo - Eric Gelinas
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
You can tell why the team plays on defence so much. With Patrick Elias out, not a lot of offensive talent. Jagr's been their best player and they have little offence coming up through the system—they used their 29th pick in 2012 on Stefan Matteau, traded their 9th pick in the 2013 draft for Schneider, and will forfeit this pick. Ilya Kovalchuk retired and went to Russia, and they aren't exceptionally talented from the back-end, though Andy Greene has 7 goals and 22 points through 46 games, which is pretty good (and Zidlicky is Zidlicky).
Schneider will start the second half of a back-to-back, and that isn't the first time he's done so this year. He had a 15-save shutout on no days rest against Buffalo in November, so maybe the Leafs will have to test him with more than 15 shots? Haha. Not likely.
The Leafs and Devils are on at 7 Eastern on Leafs TV.
* - If the Billy Baroo was a lucky putter used for big putts, why wouldn't Judge Smails just use it on every putt? Also, why would a slave to convention like Smails buck convention and use two putters in his bag?