March 16 2013 09:10PM
Photo via Claus Anderson/NHL Interactive
Sometimes you can nitpick certain aspects of the game. Sometimes you can just throw out the spreadsheets and enjoy a perfectly good game of hockey. Not a lot to comment on here—this was a hockey game with minimal structure from both teams, some hilarious coaching decisions on both ends, lots of goals, and an interminable shootout.
Winnipeg beats Toronto 5-4, but Toronto, for the second straight Saturday night, came back from a 4-1 deficit to force overtime and the shootout. They got their chances in the OT, but Nik Kulemin missed an empty net and Nazem Kadri failed to convert a gorgeous play set up by Phil Kessel and John-Michael Liles. They couldn't get anything done in the shootout and James Reimer could only hold off the Jets for so long before Zach Bogosian scored the winner.
March 16 2013 04:21PM
The Leafs get Joffrey Lupul back, but since scoring hasn't been Toronto's issue in his absence, the bigger story to tonight's game is that Toronto gets to set the line matchups in contrast to their two earlier games this season against Winnipeg in Winnipeg. Other than that, not a whole heck of a lot else changes, even if this game is stepped up in importance due to Winnipeg being a team competing for a playoff spot with Toronto, and that fact is a little more apparent:
*3rd - Carolina - 31 pts / 22 games remaining
5th - Ottawa 34 pts / 21 games remaining
6th - New Jersey 32 pts / 20 games remaining
7th - Toronto 31 pts / 20 games remaining
8th - Winnipeg 30 pts / 21 games remaining
9th - NY Rangers 28 pts / 21 games remaining
10th - NY Islanders 27 pts / 21 games remaining
11th - Philadelphia 27 pts / 19 games remaining
I'll get into more detail in all of those team's chances later this week, but those are the eight teams realistically competing for the final five spots barring a crazy run from the Lightning or Capitals. As much grief as the hockey blogosphere gives Winnipeg, they're a pretty good team, and I gave them a good shot to make the playoffs last season. Their issue was goaltending, but they're a very well-coached, even-possession team with two good lines.
March 15 2013 12:45PM
The bad news, as pointed out by James Mirtle, is that Tyler Bozak is averaging more than three minutes a game more than Mikhail Grabovski this season. That can mean that Randy Carlyle actually-factually thinks Bozak is a better player than Grabovski.
Worse, as I've seemed to notice, it seems as if Grabovski has been held to such a low number based on a statistic. Like has been pointed out to me many times before in comment sections, you can't build a team based on a spreadsheet, whether it's Corsi, Offensive Zone Start %… or face-off percentage.
March 15 2013 12:28PM
Leafs lose a 3-1 heartbreaker...
March 15 2013 12:05PM
With Joffrey Lupul set to return to lineup, TOR opens up spot by trading David Steckel to ANA for minor leaguer Ryan Lasch and 7th rd pick.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 15, 2013
Not a huge shock. Toronto needed to open up a roster spot for the impending return of Joffrey Lupul, and the success of Jay McClement made Dave Steckel a redundancy.
In return the Leafs get a minor leaguer and a low pick. The good news is that Toronto get Lupul back and everybody else is shoved down the depth chart. The bad news is that the organization is committed to bad hockey players playing on the fourth line wing. Steckel had filled in on the fourth line when injuries forced Jay McClement to play on Mikhail Grabovski's wing, but never played the wing position himself alongside McClement.