Well that was unlikely.
Not only has Ryan Miller typically been a beast against the Toronto Maple Leafs in his career, but the Toronto Maple Leafs got in no small way out-played by the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center Tuesday night, but walked away with a 4-3 overtime win thanks to Matt Frattin’s second goal of the contest.
Jay McClement and Cody Franson also scored for the Leafs, who won a real weird one, but you knew that already. I have some detailed scoring chance data ahead, which I guarantee you is information you won’t see anywhere else on the World Wide Web.
-Scoring chances, first off… were very even, even if puck-possession seemed to be slanted in the Sabres’ favour. Buffalo out-chanced Toronto 16-15 and 14-13 at even strength, 13-10 in 5-on-5 “score close” situations. I have the Leafs getting the only two good chances in overtime, the most important one coming with a second to go, Matt Frattin sneaking around his man and shelfing it.
-Auto-correct wanted that to say “shelving”, but this is a Maple Leafs blog, not a Maple Leaves blog.
-Why do I say puck-possession was slanted for the Sabres? Just look at the shot counter. Buffalo had 58 shot attempts to 49 for the Leafs, but more of their attempts got through: 32 to 24. James Reimer had to be pretty sharp in this one, and he turned aside 28 of 30 shots at even strength, and picks up his second quality start in three attempts this season.
-This is the real key: by my count, there were 24 face-offs in Toronto’s defensive zone and just 9 in Buffalo’s defensive zone. That’s a pretty fair gap, and only three Maple Leafs had the luxury of starting more shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive: Mike Brown, Colton Orr, and Dave Steckel. I may be off by one or two starts for each of these players (our app isn’t updated for this season just yet) but I’m reasonably confident that only the fourth line saw that prime ice-time. They didn’t do anything with it.
-There weren’t any set match ups in this one, particularly because in the absence of Clarke MacArthur, the Leafs have to do some different things with their lines. Mikhail Grabovski practically played the whole night with Nik Kulemin at his side, but Phil Kessel replaced Jay McClement for a couple of shifts at parts in the second half of the game. Generally his line played against Thomas Vanek-Jason Pominville-Cody Hodgson in the first period, but then Lindy Ruff started mixing his lines around. Grabovski saw shifts against Steve Ott, who had a pretty good game for Buffalo I thought.
-The Leafs’ third line of Nazem Kadri-Matt Frattin-Leo Komarov had a good night against the Sabres’ third line of Marcus Foligno-Mikhail Grigorenko-Jochen Hecht. I thought it was odd early on that, with Kadri having to take so many face-offs in the defensive end, that Ruff didn’t pressure him more with a shift from his top line, but he seemed content with matching young third lines. Kadri had a +1 scoring chance differential despite 7 defensive zone face-off starts. In fact that third line was the only Leafs line in plus territory as far as chances were concerned.
-Kadri won 3-of-3 draws against Grigorenko, who made a nice play for his first NHL goal, sneaking a backhanded effort through James Reimer’s five-hole.
-Mike Kostka’s ice time was cut to a mere 24:19. His pairing with Dion Phaneuf took fewer risks in this game though and weren’t as noticeable on the ice. They also saw a lot of matching against Thomas Vanek and had a lot of defensive zone starts, so you probably shouldn’t have expected them to do too much on offence.
-Mark Fraser played limited minutes, but he had a fairly good game. Minus a poor clearing attempt that led to Buffalo’s powerplay goal (although Leo Komarov was also complicit) him and Cody Franson were plus-players in scoring chances, which is probably something we weren’t expecting to happen coming in. He also had a couple of key shot blocks in the third period off shots from the slot, covering for mistakes made by members of Kadri’s line on both occasions. Didn’t care to check back and look at who, because I don’t like finger pointing.
-I thought the second pairing with John-Michael Liles and Carl Gunnarsson played well. Like Phaneuf-Kostka, they didn’t seem to eager to jump up into rushes (I think Franson was the only one who did that this game. On two occasions, both two-on-ones with Frattin, one of those resulting in Frattin’s first goal). Gunnarsson played 26 minutes and Liles 24.
-Here’s my scoring chance data. Every player on the ice for a scoring chance for the Leafs gets a “plus” and every player on the ice for a Sabres’ scoring chance gets a “minus” these are 5-on-5 numbers only, sorted by line and defensive pairings:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
|James van Riemsdyk||4||5||-1|
-Here’s the total breakdown by team:
|Toronto (EV)||3 (3)||6 (4)||5 (4)||2 (2)||15 (13)|
|Buffalo (EV)||4 (2)||6 (6)||6 (6)||0 (0)||16 (14)|
Talk about Phil Kessel’s drought in the comments. NHL.com has him with three shots in this game. I recorded just one of those as a scoring chance.
TheLeafsNation.com’s Three Stars:
- Matt Frattin
- Mikhail Grabovski
- Andrej Sekera