December 13 2013 11:12AM
I don't want to beat the deadest horse in the world, but Mark Fraser is not an NHL defenceman. Another noon hour came and went without Fraser finding his way onto the waiver wire, which may not be too surprising, but I think Fraser has played well enough to earn himself at least a healthy scratch, and the opportunity for John-Michael Liles to get some games.
It's beating the horse. With Fraser on the ice the Leafs have just 40.3% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts [Extra Skater], and have been out-scored 4-12. The numbers don't really improve when you restrict the sample to 5-on-5 score tied or 5-on-5 score close, and he is really driving down the play of one Paul Ranger, who I think is a fine defenceman on his own, but locked into a brutal third pairing.
I uploaded a brief video of the problem with Mark Fraser.
December 12 2013 01:25PM
Counting shots and shots against for a single game can be somewhat misleading—late in games, when a team is trailing, they'll tend to shoot more. The best solution to this problem is to avoid counting shots during the parts of the game where it's in one team's interest to shoot the puck more than the other team's. We call this "score-close" or "close" situations: either the game is tied, or there's just one goal separating the teams in the first or second periods.
The Leafs have just one game this season where they've earned a higher rate of the close shots than against Los Angeles, where they out-shot the Kings 30-16, or earning a 65.2% shots rate. That was the 4-2 win against Buffalo, where they had a 66.7% shot share (out-shooting Buffalo 8-4 in close situations. Hardly a large-enough sample size for this project). What I found amazing is not that the Leafs had a higher share of shots than their opponent, but that it happened against Los Angeles, one of the dominant shooting teams in the league.
The question is… can they have a repeat performance, in St. Louis, on the road, on the second half of a back-to-back? Let's consult our magic 8 ball.
December 11 2013 08:57PM
I don't know how many times over the last 70 or so games I've looked at an empty page, attempting to make sense of the game I just saw, trying to explain a game that was beyond explaining. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their fair share of games that they didn't deserve to win, either because of a timely goal, a timely save or just straight-up voodoo. In a game like hockey, were process rarely conflates with results in a real small sample, it can be difficult to be analytical about a single game. Sometimes things were just not meant to be.
But I have never been so shocked about a Leafs loss as this one. Perhaps Game 4 of the series against the Bruins, where the Leafs got everything together for half a game and took it to one of the best teams in the conference offensively, defensively, and physically, only to lose the game on several botched coverages in the OT. This was similar. The Leafs were all over Los Angeles, and it was just one play that led to a two-on-one, with the puck on the stick of a dangerous shooter… and the winning goal was scored. And then another goal was scored, and it was a 3-1 final.
Much like that game, the Leafs out-played the Kings. Sure, the Kings were on the second game of a back-to-back, but they're one of the best puck possession clubs in the NHL, and the Leafs absolutely took it to them, and could not beat that friggin' undrafted goalie at the other end. At least it wasn't Ben Scrivens, because, oh boy, how bad would that have looked?
December 11 2013 12:25PM
Before every game, I get into writing about something other than the obvious storyline pertaining to the other team. The obvious thing going into tonight is the goaltenders. Jonathan Bernier will get to face his old team while Ben Scrivens looks to be sitting on the bench. Both have been exceptional since the trade in the summer.
But I don't want to write about the goaltenders, nor do I want to concentrate on the 6-0 drubbing the Los Angeles Kings laid on the Montreal Canadiens (thank you!) a night ago on national television. I want to focus on Justin Williams, because he is a player so rarely talked about in the mainstream press despite possibly being the best two-way winger in the world right now. He won't get Team Canada consideration because he's not flashy, but his teams are embarrassingly better with Williams on the ice than off the ice.
After the jump I'll look at the key statistics between the two teams, then completely ignore those, and focus on Justin Williams.
December 09 2013 11:20AM
The big news, I guess, is that Dion Phaneuf is facing a hearing for his hit on Kevan Miller at the conclusion of the Sunday game against Boston. While the Leafs were lucky enough that Nazem Kadri was suspended for a series of games that included Buffalo twice and the New York Islanders, the Maple Leafs can ill-afford to play Los Angeles and St. Louis without their top defenceman. So this could get interesting.
Onto other things:
I wasn't able to watch most of the Saturday game with sound, but I heard CBC's David Amber set up the game when the teams were skating onto the ice. He mentioned that the Ottawa Senators had been shorthanded more than any team in hockey. That can't be disputed, but it should be worth pointing out that the Senators (as of Monday morning) are fourth in the league in powerplay opportunities while the Toronto Maple Leafs are 28th.