Photo via Abelimages and NHLInteractive
The Toronto Maple Leafs beat a provincial rival 3-0 on a Saturday night. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the opposing team, tonight the Ottawa Senators, had to dress two players who have sweater numbers in the 60s and three with sweater numbers in the 50s.
Ben Scrivens though, played very well in his first career shutout, despite the fact that the majority of the Senators’ shots came were long-range or mid-range attempts from poor angles. He looked good positionally, but mostly the defence was good around him and the Sens didn’t get a lot of second chances. Or first chances.
Frazer McLaren’s ass, Tyler Bozak’s skate and John-Michael Liles from 131 feet out are your goal scorers in this one.
-Starting with scoring chances, since the definitions are contentious and the conclusions I draw from them are controversial. Toronto escaped a game where they actually got out-chanced: a frightfully slow pace, there was a single scoring chance in the first period and the total number of quality shot attempts was 18. 10-8 for the Senators, presumably after Randy Carlyle tried to tighten things up after a defensively-inept game against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Leafs’ last outing, where the team surrendered 20 scoring chances and 15 at even strength.
-The Senators did get the advantage of specialty teams plays. At five-on-five, where the bulk of my analysis is done, it was 7-7. The Leafs recovered from a 7-3 deficit after a strong third period where they went 4-0. The best line Toronto had was the first, on the ice together for five scoring chances combined, taking advantage of a weak Senators’ lineup with three players playing in their first game. The worst? Nazem Kadri-Colton Orr-Clarke MacArthur: all of them were minus-3 in scoring chance differential through this game. Orr played 12:51 in this game, easily the highest total of his career in Toronto. He recorded no shot attempts.
-For a brief second, Kadri and MacArthur found themselves on the first line where they belonged, as the Leafs earned an odd-man rush in the middle of a line change. It was a glorious moment, one that would have surely resulted in a goal if MacArthur had not made an extra pass. Both Kadri and MacArthur are excellent hockey players who certainly do not benefit from playing shorthanded much of the game.
-Hey, the fourth line, made up of Jay McClement, Frazer McLaren and Mike Brown scored a goal tonight! This is excellent coaching and an indication that Randy Carlyle should dress three thugs each game, correct? Well, probably not. Their goal tonight was the product of good puck-possession on that line’s third good shift of the season, by my count. Too many times does that line otherwise have that happen against them at the other end, and I will continue to point at McLaren’s, Brown’s and Orr’s, low Corsi rates this season. All four regular fourth liners get out-shot by more than twenty shots per 60 minutes when they are on the ice.
-I’ll point to a sequence late in the third period. Up by two, Carlyle sent out his fourth line for an offensive zone face-off with seven minutes to go in the game. Zack Smith, Chris Neil and Kaspars Daugevins got control of the puck and moved it up ice, and just 11 seconds later, the Leafs faced a defensive zone face-off. Offensive zone face-offs are better to have than defensive zone face-offs and as a result of that, Tyler Bozak had to come out and take one of his seven face-offs in the defensive end on the night.
-So it’s always hard to see Jay McClement back there. McClement is a more than capable defensive centreman, but he’s been put in hilarious situations this year. He either plays with two thugs on his wing, or playing real tough defensive assignments with Mikhail Grabovski on the second line. It’s a living miracle that he’s a +4 this season, and he was inches away from being a +5 if he scored on that breakaway at the end of the game.
-Say, how good was Grabovski in this one? You may not have noticed Jim Hughson calling Mika Zibanejad’s or Daniel Alfredsson’s name being called much. Either that was because you muted the television, or because Grabovski was spectacularly effective. Carlyle ran a hard match against the Sens’ top two offensive players with Grabovski, and the Leafs’ second line absolutely crushed them at even strength, not just shutting them down but by earning a chance themselves at a point.
-I still like MacArthur better on that line with Grabovski and Nik Kulemin, but I’ll confess I prefer MacArthur to James van Riemsdyk on the first line, and I prefer MacArthur to Orr or McClement or Matt Frattin on the Leafs’ third line. He’s a very versatile player, something that I think is past Leo Komarov’s ceiling. That said, the second line was very good.
-Also good, the first pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Korbinian Holzer. Phaneuf played 23:53 and led the team with 17:36 at even strength. He was a +2 in scoring chance differential and played almost exclusively against Alfredsson or Kyle Turris. The top two Ottawa lines did not record a single scoring chance when together in this game. Granted, they were without their two best offensive players in Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, but it was a fine defensive performance.
-That said, it was also dreadfully boring, but when the team hasn’t been a winning team in quite some time, I guess you take your victories the way you can earn them. Here are the individual scoring chances:
|TARANNA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||5||4||1|
|KANATA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Stephane da Costa||3||3||0|
-And by team:
|Ottawa (EV)||1 (1)||7 (6)||2 (0)||10 (7)|
|Toronto (EV)||0 (0)||3 (3)||5 (4)||8 (7)|
-LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Ben Scrivens
- Dion Phaneuf
- Phil Kessel