January 14 2014 11:33AM
Leafs fans celebrating on Yonge St. after the team's last regulation win on the road
Back to the grind…
We're in that time of year where we have to predict records for what the Leafs need to finish with to make the playoffs. I had 18-14-4 before Sunday's game but I guess now it would be 17-14-4, but probably closer to 18-14-2 because I don't like the Leafs' chances of making the playoffs without getting a few more regulation or overtime wins here or there. Remember, that's the first tiebreaker after games played and I'm not sure how feasible it is that Toronto can pass any team in ROW between now and the end of the year. They're tied with Washington, but five back of Detroit, and five is an awfully big number at this level.
But more importantly, just win in regulation more so we can stop talking about it. The Leafs are 12-20 in regulation after beginning the year not just 6-1 overall, but 8-4 in regulation. That means they're 4-16 in games decided after 60 minutes since the start of November. Ugh, be better so we don't have to talk about how bad you are. Team is in Boston tonight, EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.
|Corsi Close %||53.7% (5th)||42.6% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.30 (15th)||2.11 (19th)|
|5v5 GA/60||1.72 (2nd)||2.40 (22nd)|
|5v5 Diff/60||+0.57 (5th)||-0.30 (22nd)|
|PDO||101.8 (4th)||101.2 (7th)|
|5v4 GF/60||7.50 (5th)||7.37 (6th)|
|5v4 SF/60||52.8 (12th)||55.3 (7th)|
|4v5 GA/60||5.82 (12th)||6.59 (19th)|
|4v5 SA/60||47.9 (10th)||63.0 (29th)|
|Penalty Differential||-24 (30th)||-17 (27th)|
Something about Boston having a high GF/60 rate on the powerplay scares me. It's the "uh oh, Happy learned how to putt" of hockey. Between 2009-2013, the Bruins were 25th in the NHL in goals per 60 with just 5.44. They were 15th in shots per 60 (49.0) so perhaps there's some bad luck going around, but for years it seemed that the team wasn't doing anything but setting up point shots when on the man advantage. I haven't watched them a lot lately, but early in the year they had Jarome Iginla at the point firing missiles, without getting the memo that Iginla isn't exactly great on slapshots. He played between the half-wall and the front of the net in Calgary and rarely scored on goals that weren't rushes or very close to the net.
The development of Torey Krug has obviously helped, giving Boston a second man at the point on the top unit. It also helps that Zdeno Chara is currently shooting 9.3% individually, the highest he has since 2002, but the Bruins were due for a lucky break since NOT ENOUGH GOOD HAS HAPPENED TO THEM IN THE LAST THREE YEARS.
Of course, their powerplay is great, but the once vaunted penalty kill (1st in goals against per 60 between 2009-2013 and 9th in shots against) has fallen on some hard times. Tuukka Rask has just an .877 save percentage on the penalty kill (NHL average is somewhere around .890) and while that could turn around, the Bruins take so many penalties that their good powerplay numbers are going to be eaten away at. They've come in bunches lately though: they allowed three PPGA on January 7 against the Kings, 4 on December 31 against the Islanders, 4 on October 26 against the Devils… there was a time when they could beat up on anybody in the league and it wouldn't matter because they wouldn't get scored on the powerplay. My theory is that "the best enforcer is a good powerplay" and the progression to that thought is that a good penalty kill means you can take more liberties on your opponents (if you saw last night's Vancouver-Los Angeles game, you may know what I'm talking about there). For years, Boston embodied that, but despite their excellent 5-on-5 numbers, I think they're an increasingly vulnerable team.
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond - Nazem Kadri - Joffrey Lupul
Nik Kulemin - Jay McClement - David Clarkson*
Carter Ashton - Peter Holland - Colt Knorr
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Cody Franson - Tim Gleason
Morgan Rielly - Jake Gardiner
* - questionable (flu)
Interesting bit from RRRRRANDY today:
Carlyle hints at using Holland in more offensive situations in the days ahead. Says team has probably overused McClement.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) January 14, 2014
I'm not sure if the solution to overplaying McClement is to play Holland more on the fourth line. I don't think coaches need to stick with four line combinations, but there are probably seven or eight good combinations you could use, looking at different situations.
For an offensive zone faceoff, why not send Holland out rather than McClement on the third line? At the end of a PK is probably a good time to run out Kadri with Clarkson and Lupul (or at least experiment with them together) since there's less reason to use the checking line with the opposing scoring lines tired, and Clarkson doesn't kill penalties. Even then, I'd be fine with this current fourth line if Knorr weren't on it. I like Holland, and I like Ashton, and it would be nice if they could find it in their hearts to play somebody with reasonable speed or chance at scoring goals. Troy Bodie? It seems like the ideal spot for a Matt Frattin-type of player and those guys should be relatively easy to find (you could kidnap the real Matt Frattin from the press box in LA).
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Carl Soderberg - Ryan Spooner - Loui Eriksson
Shawn Thornton - Gregory Campbell - Daniel Paille
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Adam McQuaid - Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski - Kevan Miller
Remember when Loui Eriksson was the big return in the Tyler Seguin trade?
With one real line to worry about, Claude Julien is going to hammer Chara and Bergeron against the Bozak trio all night, and they'll probably destroy in possession. Bergeron and Chara have played 288:38 together this season and have a 60.9% Corsi together despite teaming up against terrific opponents.
Shawn Thornton returned to the lineup in the Bruins last game. He didn't fight, but seeing as I just picked him up on my fantasy team (I need PIMs from forwards) hopefully he gets in a scrap with Colt Knorr, but it gets broken up, so then they fight again. I could live with that, even if it's boring and frustrating to watch.
Left Wing Lock has Jonathan Bernier up against Tuukka Rask. The Leafs are on the first half of a back-to-back and the Bruins didn't play yesterday and don't play tomorrow, so it's time to trot out the workhorse. Great goalie matchups on the night include Karri Ramo versus Carter Hutton, Robin Lehner versus Darcy Kuemper, and Ilya Bryzgalov in a brutal personal conflict versus himself. Tune in!
The Leafs are in Boston (I double-checked this time. Last game I thought Toronto were on the road in New Jersey but that was obviously wrong) and they start at 7 P.M. The game is on Sportsnet Ontario.