No offence in the Capital: Leafs lose 5-1 in Washington

Greg Fiume/NHL Interactive

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Irony of all ironies, for the second consecutive night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were visually out-played and out-shot, but the Randy Carlyle tight system did everything as advertised: it restricted scoring chances against.

The Leafs out-chanced the Washington Capitals at even strength. Even in the early going when the Capitals held an edge in zone time, the Leafs kept shots primarily to the outside… although the Capitals seemed like they were trying to force things through and set up deflections. Maybe. Maybe not. Some teams have strategies where they try to fire pucks through shot blockers and pounce on rebounds. Occasionally, it’s successful.

Tuesday night, the second half of a back-to-back, with one of the league’s hottest offensive squads against a backup goaltender, it worked. Not an awful loss for the Leafs, however. It’s a schedule loss. It’s one that we could have expected. The Leafs looked at the schedule, started James Reimer against the Devils, and decided to come out of a tough back-to-back with their best chance at two points.

The Leafs lost 5-1.

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Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin were sat in favour of Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. I also have no problem with that. Both players have missed significant time with injuries this season, and if games get rough, it’s best that the guys taking much of the abuse will be the face-punchers of the world, and not useful players that the  

Just wish the team was able to sit Joffrey Lupul by the same token of logic…

My belief is that the process you use to make a decision is more important than whether the decision was right or wrong. It’s the “show your work” aspect of the game. If Carlyle sat MacArthur and Frattin because he thought they were legitimately the problem against New Jersey and not the lack of a competent fourth line, well… I disagree with him.

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But there’s not even too much to talk about. Like the Montreal game, we got a period of hockey in before the scoreboard inflated one side’s goal totals that left us with a third period that didn’t resemble hockey. Jack Hillen started the scoring on a lucky one and Washington went into the break up 1-0.

In the second, the Capitals got goals from Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin on a powerplay. It was over by that point. A good bounce led to a Ryan Hamilton-Mikhail Grabovski hookup that resulted in a Grabovski goal that broke the shutout, but Marcus Johansson put in a 5-1 goal on another Caps powerplay. For the first time in a long time, the Leafs PK was leaky.

That Alexander Ovechkin is very good. Him and Phil Kessel are probably the two best players in the world right now although Kessel didn’t have a real good night. The entire first line had a night off, and that meant the team didn’t have too much offence to speak of in the first half of the game.

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As good as they were at preventing chances against at evens, this is the second consecutive game the Leafs allowed a bunch of chances while killing a penalty. Six against the Devils, six against the Capitals. It’s pretty inconsistent with the way the Leafs have played all season and they got eaten up killing penalties. Two goals against, six shots… six chances. Something needs to be cleaned up.

The Leafs were down by 13 shot attempts in this game at evens: Toronto had 34 and the Capitals had 47. Given the Leafs were down for most of the game, this isn’t entirely flattering. 

That said, Dion Phaneuf was a minus-5 in Corsi, or shot attempt differential. He also played 10.3 minutes against Alex Ovechkin, who, you’ll note below, didn’t accomplish a whole lot at even strength. Despite the Leafs getting creamed, Phaneuf, and Mikhail Grabovski, have been very good in the last two games. The offence from the second line is really lacking.

To expand on that, this is the second straight game Nazem Kadri wasn’t on the ice for a scoring chance for. Steve Burtch said on Twitter today that his shot rate has fallen off since he went cold after the Ottawa game. We’ll have to look more into him. 

Surprisingly good night in scoring chances for the Leafs second pairing (or is it third?) of Ryan O’Byrne and John-Michael Liles. Should be qualified that they played mostly against the Caps’ third and fourth lines and started shifts primarily at the offensive end (Liles had 6 offensive starts and 1 defensive)

Amazingly, Mark Fraser started 13 shifts in the defensive end, 0 at the offensive end. Got mostly minutes against the Capitals’ second line. Him and Cody Franson were crushed in possession but did a little bit better in scoring chances. Honestly I’m not too sure about this pairing’s promotion. I think Liles is better than Fraser at both ends of the ice, as is Jake Gardiner or Carl Gunnarsson, depending on which one Dion Phaneuf plays with.

Hopefully Thursday will give me more to write about. I guess because the Winnipeg Jets got a point in their game against Tampa Bay, the Leafs won’t be able to clinch a playoff spot on Thursday barring an emergency re-alignment.

Individual Scoring Chance differential:

OTNOROT Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Tyler Bozak 6 3 3
James van Riemsdyk 5 3 2
Phil Kessel 4 3 1
Nazem Kadri 0 2 -2
Joffrey Lupul 2 2 0
Nik Kulemin 2 2 0
Mikhail Grabovski 2 1 1
Leo Komarov 2 1 1
Ryan Hamilton 2 1 1
Jay McClement 1 1 0
Colton Orr 1 1 0
Frazer McLaren 0 1 -1
Dion Phaneuf 3 3 0
Jake Gardiner 6 3 3
Ryan O’Byrne 4 0 4
John-Michael Liles 4 0 4
Cody Franson 0 4 -4
Mark Fraser 1 4 -3
NOTGNIHSAW Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Nicklas Backstrom 2 2 0
Alex Ovechkin 3 2 1
Marcus Johansson 3 2 1
Mike Ribeiro 4 4 0
Martin Erat 2 3 -1
Troy Brouwer 3 6 -3
Mathieu Perreault 0 2 -2
Eric Fehr 0 1 -1
Jason Chimera 0 3 -3
Jay Beagle 1 0 1
Aaron Volpatti 2 1 1
Matt Hendricks 1 1 0
Karl Alzner 0 2 -2
Mike Green 1 2 -1
John Erskine 4 6 -2
John Carlson 3 6 -3
Jack Hillen 3 1 2
Steve Oleksy 3 1 2

Team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 2 (2) 6 (3) 4 (4) 12 (9)
Washington (EV) 1 (1) 8 (4) 5 (2) 13 (7)


LeafsNation Three Stars:

  1. Alexander Ovechkin
  2. Mike Green
  3. Troy Brouwer

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  • MaxPower417

    Wow you are still sticking to your guns about a leafs collapse and missing the playoffs. I credit you for you conviction but like I wrote earlier this season I think Carlyle’s smart coaching and tight systems will prove your advanced stats wrong in this matter.

    • MaxPower417

      He didn’t assert or even talk about either of those things in this post.

      The only playoff related thing he mentioned was the bit at the end about them clinching. He just said it won’t be Thursday, he didn’t say they won’t clinch eventually.

      Also, elsewhere he already admitted he was wrong in his PDO-based prediction for this season and he will be adjusting his models for the next shortened season.

      • MaxPower417

        I’m probably reading too much into his post, like for example in a past posting where he even mentioned that he would “bookmark my comment” for later enjoyment just to rub it in.

  • MaxPower417

    ” I guess because the Winnipeg Jets got a point in their game against Tampa Bay, the Leafs won’t be able to clinch a playoff spot on Thursday barring an emergency re-alignment.”

    Why not? The Jets play on Thursday as well and if they lose and leafs win, Leafs clinch.

  • While I was making somewhat troll-ish comments throughout the season because I didn’t agree with how you were using advanced stats, I feel like taking all of them back. It shows a lot of character to admit areas where you were off a bit (ex: “the Leafs inevitable regression”) and in my opinion you’ve since done a much better job giving an impartial view of the games.

    Personally I think advanced stats are nice for painting a more detailed picture of what’s happening on the ice, but I’ve never found them useful for predicting sports outcomes. It sounds vague and unhelpful, but intuition and predicting the team’s mental/emotional state seems to work the best for me for predicting wins/losses.

    • During a full season it can work out.

      You’ve seen in the last couple of games how the Leafs have played. They’ve been mostly outplayed this season, but on a smaller scale.

      The “advanced stats” (or shot-differential metrics… nothing really advanced about them) predicted the demise of the 2010 Avalanche, 2011 Stars, 2012 Wild and Leafs… they helped us predict the Kings Cup last season too. The 48-game season is when everything’s gone haywire. Anaheim and Toronto have stayed hot. St. Louis never really caught fire.

      So this is uncharted territory for us all.

    • MaxPower417

      Stats are about probability not certainty. Just because a team beats the odds does not mean that you were incorrect to say if was unlikely. Then as Cam said, the smaller sample size of games this season leads to a higher degree of variation.

      • The Craig

        Well really it means that luck will have a greater bearing on the results, since we have fewer games for the luck factor to even out.

        The best point made here, which people seem to miss, is that the process matters more than the results. It worries me that Carlyle has been getting rewarded all season when the process has not necessarily been right i.e McLaren, Orr, Fraser getting playing time over other superior players.

        However I still hold out hope that Carlyle knows his team needs be better, that he must know as an NHL head coach with tons of experience, that you can’t expect your team to have sustainable success when they’re undeniably being outplayed on a regular basis.

  • jasken

    With all this player should be in that player should be out. At what point would they get the chance at playing top players and do it efficiently. I am pretty sure all these arm chair coaches and GMs could do so much better. Would you put your entire careers on the line to prove you could coach better. For the record Randy Carlyle after 60 games is 30-22-8 that means he is 7 wins short of Ron Wilson’s best year coaching the Leafs and hasn’t even done a full season waiting for this big collapse when will Carlyle’s “luck” run out

    If it was just a matter of preventing shots and line matching then great you win 50% of your games as you can only get the line matches you want on home-ice. When coach says he dont care about how many shots they took or had against and the players dont care. why does anyone else?

    I dont agree with Lupul back last night but again he needs the games to be ready. Unless you plan to sit him the rest of the year he has to play sometime eventually.