Leafs outclassed, drop 1-0 decision to Bruins: Recap and scoring chances

Photo via Abelimages/NHLInteractive

Midway through the third period, I asked Leafs fans over Twitter if a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins would be considered a positive based on what happened last season.

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They answered with a resounding yes, which says something both about the expectations Maple Leafs fans have and how badly things fell apart last year with the team’s defence and the goaltending. A cute CBC graphic during Saturday night’s game showed a 6-0 record for the Bruins over the Leafs last year and the aggregate goal tally was 36-10.

I’m not particularly convinced that the 2013 version of the Maple Leafs are a hockey team that can make the playoffs without a significant amount of luck. I am closer to being convinced that James Reimer may very well be “the guy”. He gets tagged with an ‘L’ tonight, but kept the game close and winnable for his skaters, in a 1-0 defeat to the 2011 Stanley Cup champs.

Analysis below. 

-The scoring chances were heavily in favour of the Boston Bruins. I counted 15 scoring chances for the Bruins and just 7 for the Leafs. At even strength, that was 12 to 4 for the Bs. Toronto was good at collapsing the front of the net in the first half of the game, but Boston kept at it, started using the wide parts of the ice, and made one-on-one runs at defencemen rather than trying to be too cute and pass around them. They had a lot of “chances at chances” in the first half of the game, but my system only records a chance when there was also a shot or a missed shot recorded.

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As I wrote in my preview, the Bruins are a team with a powerful offensive attack. They had two really good lines and scorers on their third line to boot. The first line was all over the Leafs, with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin were the two most dangerous offensive players for either team, taking lots of good shots and not getting rewarded. Both had six shots on net and three from the scoring chance zone.

-I thought both the Tyler Bozak line and the Mikhail Grabovski line did an adequate job of skating with those lines. They intercepted passes at the line and went north with them, but weren’t able to generate anything in the offensive zone. The Leafs’ problem matching up can probably be summed up by Carl Gunnarsson being declared a late scratch, and Mike Kostka was a game-high in minutes with 27:37. I have nothing against Kostka and it’s a great story, but the Maple Leafs can’t have a career AHLer playing top pairing minutes for them and expect to beat one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

-The goal wasn’t scored against Kostka and Dion Phaneuf, nor was it scored against the rag-tag second pairing of Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles. The Leafs’ three fighters were on the ice at the same time: Mark Fraser, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. The replays will show Cody Franson losing his man in front of the net, but Chris Kelly was able to skate the puck in with relative ease and bring it deep. I like Franson and don’t think the goal is on him. He had a pretty solid game otherwise.

-The “rag-tag second pairing” was not particularly good. While Phaneuf and Kostka can hurt you offensively, Liles just seemed determined to make his outlet passes to the wide side of the ice and not chase them. He usually likes to get involved in the offence but sat back, and partially as a result, the Leafs didn’t have too much offence, especially none generated from their defence. That’s the rub when you play a tough defensive style against a team like the Bruins: once you’re down 1-0, you theoretically have to score a goal at some point if you want to win. 

-Cody Franson had a goal waved off on a bad call, but so did Tyler Seguin. All told, the refereeing was very NHL-like: fair for both sides. PPP has a link to the NHL’s poor explanation for why Seguin’s was waved off.

-A note about Nazem Kadri… you’ll note in our scoring chances box below that his line was all in the minuses when it came to puck possession. Between them, they got just three shots on goal. Kadri took two faceoffs in the offensive zone and eight in the defensive zone. Leo Komarov had another two in the defensive zone. When he was out against the first or second Boston lines, he couldn’t keep up with them as well as Bozak’s or Grabovski’s line could, and while they did some good things defensively, it’s that transition and neutral zone game where they were lagging behind. I do think Kadri playing with Kessel would be a benefit to both players, but nights like these are why people are skeptical on Kadri or Frattin’s respective abilities to be top-six, play-driving NHLers. 

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-James Reimer had a number of big stops (that number is 12) and stopped 31 of 32 overall. Lots of good positional saves, it looked like. I’m no goalie expert, but he stopped enough pucks to win, I know that much. So did Tuukka Rask, but by looking at the scoring chances and the shots, it’s clear he had a much easier go of it. 

-Finally… Phil Kessel. I have him down for two shots off scoring chances. I can remember one being the puck that somehow got to him on the powerplay in the third period, and the second was on another was late in the second period after a good feed from James van Riemsdyk. Additionally, he nicked the post a couple minutes earlier. Eight attempts at net overall, and again, he’s getting his chances, but is impressively snake-bit. Unfortunately, he can’t laugh it off tonight since his team didn’t win. 

Still, though, it could have been disastrously worse. Carolina comes to town on Monday. Here are the scoring chance plus/minus numbers.

TORONTO Chances For Chances Vs. Differential
Tyler Bozak 1 3 -2
James van Riemsdyk 2 3 -1
Phil Kessel 2 3 -1
Mikhail Grabovski 3 3 0
Jay McClement 2 2 0
Nik Kulemin 2 3 -1
Nazem Kadri 0 3 -3
Matt Frattin 0 2 -2
Leo Komarov 0 2 -2
Dave Steckel 0 2 -2
Colton Orr 0 2 -2
Frazer McLaren 0 2 -2
Dion Phaneuf 2 4 -2
Mike Kostka 3 5 -2
Mike Komisarek 1 4 -3
John-Michael Liles 1 4 -3
Cody Franson 1 2 -1
Mark Fraser 0 1 -1
BOSTON Chances For Chances Vs. Differential
Patrice Bergeron 4 1 3
Tyler Seguin 4 1 3
Brad Marchand 2 0 2
David Krejci 5 1 4
Milan Lucic 5 0 5
Nathan Horton 5 1 4
Chris Kelly 1 3 -2
Chris Bourque 1 1 0
Rich Peverley 1 1 0
Gregory Campbell 2 2 0
Lane MacDermid 0 0 0
Jamie Tardif 0 1 -1
Zdeno Chara 2 1 1
Johnny Boychuk 1 2 -1
Dougie Hamilton 4 1 3
Dennis Seidenberg 2 2 0
Andrew Ference 6 1 5
Adam McQuaid 5 1 4

And team breakdown for chances:

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  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Boston (even strength) 3 (3) 8 (5) 4 (4) 15 (12)
Toronto (even strength) 2 (2) 3 (2) 2 (0) 7 (4)

The Leafs Nation Three Stars:

  1. James Reimer
  2. Patrice Bergeron
  3. Nathan Horton

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  • millzy09

    I’m disappointed with this summary as there should be more Kostka bashing, for example,

    1. Kostka didn’t allow a single goal for 27 minutes tonight against the pathetic and offensively inept bruins but who cares any AHLer can do that.

    2. Kostka should be scoring goals even though our talented forwards can’t. And it is ok that Phaneuf didn’t score any goals in this game but we expect even more from Kostka because he is barely AHL level. Heck, I blame Kostka for Kessel’s slump and other forwards inability to score.

    3. Kostka is the most useless player on the leafs, he couldn’t even stop the goal against while he was sitting on the bench.

    4. Also the leafs didn’t too well in the faceoffs and I again see the problem was Kostka here and if Kostka didn’t play so many minutes the centers would have won more faceoffs.

    Moar Kostka bashing moar, moar bashing the goon squad line lest we actually deal with some of the leafs obvious problems like for example, the inability to score by certain players.

  • Also on scoring chances and in particular Kessel’s. What I noticed “watching” the game was Kessel was largely ineffective because he was relegated to shooting from the perimeter. Kessel does not want to get his nose dirty and drive the net nor mix it up along the boards like talented players like a crosby or parise would for example.

    The Bruins (and other good teams) are good at relegating Kessel (and other leaf forwards) to the perimeter for low probability shots. I’m not sure how your scoring chances capture the quality of the scoring chance but aside from hitting the post Kessel was too much panic around Chara and the effective Bruins defence.

    The point here is that Kessel can make a mockery of lower quality players and defensive systems but against the better and bigger teams Kessel (and other leaf forwards) are nearly invisible.

    I’m not sure why “scoring chances” doesn’t capture this aspect but that is what I have seen in my few years of watching Kessel the leafs and in the game against the Bruins.

    Also I hope this doesn’t come off as Kessel bashing like my above Kostka bashing but I’m not sure who deserves it more.

  • millzy09

    @leafnerd….Haha well put. Very much enjoyed your comments. Gotta say Cam, you seem to really dislike Kostka. He was remarkably invisible tonight for the most part, playing against one of the best teams in the league. That’s all I ask for in solid d-man. If he wants to play a safe game and keep pucks out of the net for 27+ mins a night, I’m happy to take it. Not fair that you think he should be relied upon for offense as well. I suppose we may as well put Komisarek on for 30 mins a game since at least he’s not a career AHL’er and at the end of the day…that’s all that really matters.

  • millzy09

    Leafs made a big mistake scratching Gunnarson. Komy or Fraser should have been scratched instead.

    Though I don’t fully recall anymore but is he injured or was he playing while hurt in the past games?

    Anyways I just don’t see the need for Fraser, he didn’t even lay out the hits this game, and had trouble taking passes. He fought but I thought fighting was Orr’s and McLaren’s job.

    As for Kostka he did good. He broke up several plays, kept the puck safe (for the most part), and took some shots.

    I’m just saying since every time I read an article by Cam it feels like there’s a subtle or not so subtle message :].

  • Quasijr

    I don’t see where all the hate for Kostka is coming from, yes I agree he’s not a number 1 defence man but who is on our Leafs. Lets get real the Bruins & Rangers are hugely better than the Leafs so it comes down to how badly we get dominated by them. The Bruins though out played them did not dominate them like the Rangers did, this is a plus. I dont see the point of keeping Fraser, yes he came to Kessels defence when he got hit but I find him a career AHL goon. The fourth line was totally the weakest link in last nights game & was totally exposed. They should be saved only to play against weaker or slower teams.

  • Gunnarsson was out due to injury.

    Again, @millzy, I have no problem with Kostka as a person. I think he’d be fine as a sub-20 minute player in the NHL. It’s a problem when he has to play the minutes he does, and that’s more on Leafs management not recognizing the problem on ‘D’ more than it is on Kostka.

    And yes, a No. 1 pairing defenceman should be able to be acceptable at both offence and defence, or really good at one of the two, while being able to play more than 25 minutes a night.

  • Did Mike Kostka’s family find this site or something?

    Kostka does have an effect on the Leafs’ offence because he is hampering the PP with his glacier-like decision making with the puck.

    He’s an NHL defender but not a top pairing defenceman. I didn’t think it took a rocket scientist to appreciate the nuance of that but apparently it does.