February 04 2014 10:45AM
Tomorrow morning I'm going to take a bus down to Seattle to watch a friggin championship victory parade. I can say with absolute certainty that I would not have enjoyed the Superbowl victory as much as I would have had I not sat through some awful, awful years and monumentally heartbreaking losses (remember what Sean McIndoe said about "THOSE GAMES" last spring? The Seahawks exit against Atlanta to end their season a year ago was one of THOSE GAMES. He was completely right. I'm over Pete Carroll's confusing decision to play prevent defence against Matt Ryan with under a minute to go. I'm even over Matt Hasselbeck "we'll take the ball and we're going to score!" Right now, only the things between now and the next victory will count in the annals of crushing disappointment.)
Anyway, that's not really important to the game between the Maple Leafs and the Panthers tonight. I have a couple of notes about Dave Nonis' reported rant at his team and also a whack of statistics that don't matter.
|Corsi Close %||50.5% (14th)||43.2% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.26 (18th)||2.37 (13th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.67 (28th)||2.50 (24th)|
|5v5 Diff/60||-0.41 (24th)||-0.13 (18th)|
|PDO||98.6 (27th)||101.6 (5th)|
|5v4 GF/60||2.50 (30th)||7.96 (4th)|
|5v4 SF/60||41.6 (28th)||53.5 (9th)|
|4v5 GA/60||8.01 (29th)||6.62 (20th)|
|4v5 SA/60||54.4 (21st)||61.7 (30th)|
|Penalty Differential||+11 (7th)||-10 (23rd)|
People (including myself) kept saying "the Leafs take too many shots, the Leafs take too many penalties, and the Leafs rely too much on their goaltending". Those people are still right, the Leafs do a lot of things wrong, but that's what's making this winning streak a lot of fun, not only because the two most exciting players on the team, Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri, are producing beyond their means, but because the 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs season has just been a complete logical mystery. The rest of the league is playing chess, and the Leafs are playing bowling.
Dave Nonis stood in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs and ran through the unwelcome consequences that were coming if the team continued on its losing ways.
This was only a couple weeks ago and the atmosphere in the dressing room couldn’t have been any different than it is right now. Tensions were extremely high following a couple embarrassing losses and, according to one confidant, coach Randy Carlyle even feared that his job might be in danger. A few of his players had good reason to wonder if they might be shipped out of town, too.
I'm not sure what effect something like that may have. Chris Johnston, who wrote the story, doesn't offer much of a timeline on when Nonis stood up in front of his team. I can buy it as a more plausible reason for the team's win streak than the addition of Tim Gleason to the lineup, but it falls flat in some areas. For one, Dave Nonis is not a particularly intimidating personality. He always has the same expression of a worried dog on his face, and if the team was tuning out Randy Carlyle at that point, how would they react to a guy they don't see, or trust, as much.
By checking out these graphs, with the Leafs Fenwick% and PDO (save percentage plus shooting percentage) rolled over the last ten games (via Extra Skater) you can see that the right addition of skill and luck has kind of spurred this:
The Leafs 45.4% Fenwick Close over the last ten games is the highest it's been for any ten-game stretch this season save for a 45.8% one in late November-early December. (The Leafs only won two of those ten games, in part because that was when the Leafs PK was giving up two goals a game, plus 45% Fenwick Close is still pretty poor)
Some good luck has helped along with some improved play. While a 45% Fenwick Close is still a pretty bad number, but it beats the hell out of 40%. The Leafs also won a game Saturday without the aid of their goaltender, decisively out-shooting Ottawa 36-26 and close to even in 5-on-5 Close Corsi at 33-37.
Without a timeline on the Nonis rant, however, I'm suspicious as to its effectiveness. Sometimes things don't explain an uptick in PDO or why a team is getting the bounces they previously weren't. Television audiences like a nice, digestible soundbyte as to why.
As much as the 38-22-28 line frustrates me, I think I like it better than that first option, where you're wasting the talents of David Clarkson next to a player that takes too long to shoot and one that doesn't shoot. I'm not keen on the idea of sitting Troy Bodie, either, but it seems this is how it'll go today:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Nik Kulemin
David Clarkson - Jay McClement - Mason Raymond
Frazer McLaren - Jerred Smithson - Colt Knorr
That second line is obviously one that's been working over the last few games, and I can understand why Randy Carlyle doesn't want to upset that, but yeesh, that bottom six looks awful tonight.
Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Jesse Winchester - Scott Gomez - Shawn Matthias
Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
The Panthers have dealt with six thousands injuries over the last few years, so I can't remember the last time their lineup was the same for consecutive games. You'll note that unlike the game against the Panthers a week ago, Sasha Barkov is back in, playing where Scott Gomez did on that second line. Huberdeau has also been moved up with Bjugstad.
The key difference between the two rosters from this week to last week however, is that the Panthers are going to go with Tim Thomas in goal, an absolute detestable human being and also possibly the best goaltender of the era. His age, coupled with not getting to play with the Bruins anymore, has somewhat seen his numbers fall off and he's been hovering around an average even strength save percentage for most of the season, although that's notably better than anything the Panthers have had in the last two seasons. Leafs are going with Jonathan Bernier.
Leafs and Panthers are at 7:30 tonight on Sportsnet Ontario.