The Kulemin-McClement combo, and an early scoring chances update

Photo credit: Abelimages via

A note or two before getting to our inaugural scoring chances data dump of the 2013 season…

I’ve been paying not as much attention as intended at the way Randy Carlyle is matching up his lines just yet in the season. I’ve been pre-occupied with counting scoring chance events, so I haven’t been able to jot down in my notebook who is matchup up against who, and where on the ice, at what time in the game.

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Luckily, the play-by-play sheets have this data. When I was totalling up the scoring chance numbers for the first two games of the season, I noticed something strange. The scoring chances coming against Nik Kulemin didn’t all come when he was on that MGK unit with Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur.

( Play-by-Play vs. Montreal | Play-by-Play vs. Buffalo)

Or at least I thought it would. I noticed, reading the play-by-play sheets, an odd matchup from Carlyle, where he started two thirds of his fourth line: Jay McClement and Colton Orr, along with Nik Kulemin in the offensive zone after a TV timeout against the Montreal Canadiens. I went to look back for the replay for any sort of explanation.

Here’s what the play-by-play sheet says. Toronto’s numbers are in the left column with the player numbers indicating who is on the ice. For the faceoff, it shows the forwards being 11, 28 and 41:

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And here’s the image from the CBC feed:

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Kulemin is not on the ice, which thankfully, makes the whole exercise of figuring out why the heck he would have been out there meaningless. Starting the fourth line in the offensive zone is probably the thing to do on the road if you want to get tired legs at the end of a period a break. Up 1-0 late in a period you’ve played very well in doesn’t seem like the right time to start juggling lines.

(It’s not enough for the National Hockey League to sell out the sport and then lock out all the star players every seven years. Turns out they also need to make data gathering as frustrating as possible as well.)

Anyway, that aside, the data is generally pretty solid, although there will be a mistake here and there, and given the hundreds of thousands of events that are going to be tracked this season by, the mistakes will eventually be swallowed up by the sample size. Thankfully, nothing resulted from the above shift. The other few shifts McClement and Kulemin are together, the video confirms that, yes, McClement and Kulemin were together.

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I have noticed, with my eyes, and the generally solid backing play sheets, that Nik Kulemin has played in specialized situations with the Leafs and Carlyle. You may hear a few times in the next couple of days that Kulemin has been on the ice for all three goals against Toronto. You might recall them as follows:

Aside from his regular duties with the MGK line covering opponents’ first lines, Kulemin has been the winger called upon by Carlyle to play with McClement and get him a few more shifts at even strength in effective minutes. James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov have also spent some time with those two. Kulemin-McClement is the top penalty killing forward duo for the Leafs. I’m going to wait for another day to show you penalty-killing stats, but the difficulty of Kulemin’s minutes is something to consider when you look at scoring chances for and against, in this chart I’m about to show you.

These are just raw numbers at even strength. They’re not adjusted for quality of competition, zone starts, or anything:

Forwards Chance For Chance Vs. Chance Diff
Kessel 8 3 5
van Riemsdyk 5 2 3
Komarov 4 1 3
Bozak 8 5 3
Orr 2 0 2
Kadri 4 2 2
Lupul 7 5 2
Brown 1 0 1
Grabovski 3 4 -1
MacArthur 3 4 -1
McClement 2 4 -2
Kulemin 3 7 -4
Defence Chance For Chance Vs. Chance Diff
Kostka 8 4 4
Gunnarsson 7 4 3
Phaneuf 7 5 2
Fraser 2 1 1
Holzer 3 2 1
Franson 2 2 0
Liles 4 4 0
Komisarek 2 6 -4

I’m not too worried about Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul not scoring yet. They’re getting their chances and the goals will come. The MGK line should be about even with its opposition in chances to do their jobs right, and that’s where they are right now. It also appears that Carlyle has kept bad match-ups away from Orr and Brown, as they have yet to be victimized. The season is still young.

Also, you can see why Mike Komisarek sat for the game against Buffalo. Montreal had seven scoring chances at even strength in Saturday’s game, and Komisarek was on the ice for six of them. That’s not particularly inspirational.

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