Game One scoring chance count does not flatter Toronto Maple Leafs

(Photo via Jared Wickerham/Getty Images and NHLInteractive)

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I had a friend in university who got really sick at exam time in her first year. She didn’t get a virus, and showed no symptoms beyond nauseousness.

There’s nothing different between a university exam and a class. The material doesn’t change. If you know the subject you know the subject and you’ll get a good grade regardless of the atmosphere. But my friend let the pressure get to her. She started staying up late studying. She didn’t get enough sleep and kept herself running on caffeine and fumes. In the end, the exam period itself became a self-fulfilling prophecy—my friend couldn’t handle the stress of it all.

She got over it though. Was always a crummy student. It’s not that she cracked during exam period, it’s just that she didn’t know the material in the first place.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Game One of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series to the Boston Bruins much in the same way as my friend got sick in university. It wasn’t pretty. A 4-1 defeat to kick off the series as their first playoff game in just under nine years. Analysis below.

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This game shouldn’t change your opinion on the series. We knew going in that the Maple Leafs were in tough, that the best chance they’d have at winning a game or two would be on the back of James Reimer. That didn’t happen, as Reimer probably let in two that shouldn’t have gone in (Wade Redden’s first goal and Johnny Boychuk’s) but he was far removed from the problem.

What happened to the Leafs in this exam was the same problem that has afflicted them all of winter semester: they got hemmed in deep and collapsed to prevent chances rather than trying to out-work the opposition along the boards and force pucks out. Boston didn’t generate a tonne of even strength scoring chances int his game. It was more than the Leafs, but the damage was done with outside efforts and specialty teams’ proficiency. All-in-all, the Leafs defended as they had all year: let the opponent take shots and hope Reimer stops them all.

Reimer didn’t stop them all. He stopped 36. In a time of year against an opponent he must be flawless against, Reimer wasn’t flawless. But he wasn’t the problem.

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The big concern with the Leafs in this one was the penalty kill. The Bruins all season were a mid-level team for generating shots and chances, and the Leafs prevented them more than anybody could have hoped for. My scoring chance sheet is littered with scribbles reading “45”, marking a scoring chance in a 4-on-5 situation.

I thought the powerplay was where Jaromir Jagr shined for Boston. There was a reluctance on his part to shoot, but he’s an exceptional playmaker. He factored in on three of the ten scoring chances that the Bruins had with the man advantage. Ten. A “good number” for scoring chances killing penalties, generally, is about one per three minutes in the box.

Boston recorded ten scoring chances and 14 shots on goal in 9:53 a man up. None of that is good. That’s too many shots allowed while on the PK, and that’s half from having a worthless penalty kill on the evening, and half from taking too many doggone penalties. Just because it’s playoffs does not mean the whistles get put away.

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-Again, this isn’t a game you ought to walk away from and doom the series. If you thought the Leafs had a chance coming in to win in six or seven games, one game shouldn’t change that, no matter the score, no matter the level of dominance. Yes, the Leafs were a bad team this season and yes, the Leafs were a team this season that got frequently out-shot and out-chanced, but never this poorly. This was one of the worst team games they’ve played all year. Nothing clicked at 5-on-5 on offence (Leo Komarov and Mikhail Grabovski were their best two offensive players at evens, which is a bit of an issue) and there were too many uncharacteristic giveaways and breakdowns in the defensive zone to get an accurate read on who these Leafs are.

Randy Carlyle made bizarre tactical decisions. He will keep making them, and they’re not bizarre-enough to cost the Leafs three goals each night. Even with an optimized lineup with Jake Gardiner, Matt Frattin and Joe Colborne subbing in place for Mark Fraser, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, you’re looking at a team with holes on each line that is still susceptible to getting out-matched. It’s not that the Leafs top guys aren’t very good, it’s just that the Bruins’ are better and the way to beat them is to try and out “deep” them, rather than out “physical” them.

But that didn’t happen. Phil Kessel was, expectedly, shut down by Zdeno Chara. Chara played a fine game, a team-high +13 in Corsi shot differential and +8/-2 in scoring chances. Where the Leafs are going to get chances is by punishing the weaker spots in the Bruins’ D, which are the second and third pairings.

Grabovski, Lupul, Kulemin, Kadri, MacArthur and Komarov, who will have to exploit those holes, combined for six shots on net and three scoring chances. Not an excellent start. We caught a look at just how strong the Bruins’ top six is and their top pairing in this game and how tough they are to beat when not all lines are rolling and forcing Chara to spend time away from Kessel. 

Hoo boy, can Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin ever hit you in so many different ways? The worrying aspect is none appeared on the scoresheet despite combining for numerous chances. Marchand and Bergeron are good at forcing turnovers in the neutral zone. No zone entry data for the Bruins, but I’d bet Marchand and Bergeron are insane. They’re so good they make Seguin look like a passenger at times.

Was surprised that Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson matched against Bergeron while David Krejci’s line was shadowed somewhat by Mark Fraser and Cody Franson. Don’t agree with that decision either. I think the best bet is to get Kadri or Grabovski to play a speed game against the Bruins’ top line and try and “shut down” Krejci, Lucic and Horton with your best defenders in your own end. That should be Phaneuf’s matchup.

Stop playing fourth lines after goals against.

Individual scoring chance differentials:

  Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Tyler Bozak 3 4 -1
James van Riemsdyk 2 4 -2
Phil Kessel 1 5 -4
Mikhail Grabovski 1 2 -1
Joffrey Lupul 1 3 -2
Nik Kulemin 0 3 -3
Nazem Kadri 0 2 -2
Clarke MacArthur 1 4 -3
Leo Komarov 2 2 0
Jay McClement 0 4 -4
Colt Knorr 1 1 0
Frazer McLaren 0 2 -2
Dion Phaneuf 1 6 -5
Carl Gunnarsson 2 5 -3
John-Michael Liles 1 1 0
Mike Kostka 2 4 -2
Cody Franson 0 3 -3
Mark Fraser 2 5 -3
  Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Patrice Bergeron 5 2 3
Tyler Seguin 6 2 4
Brad Marchand 6 2 4
David Krejci 3 1 2
Milan Lucic 3 0 3
Nathan Horton 3 0 3
Chris Kelly 3 1 2
Kaspars Daugavins 2 2 0
Jaromir Jagr 2 2 0
Gregory Campbell 1 0 1
Danny Paille 1 0 1
Shawn Thornton 1 0 1
Zdeno Chara 8 2 6
Dennis Seidenberg 8 1 7
Andrew Ference 1 2 -1
Johnny Boychuk 1 3 -2
Wade Redden 3 0 3
Adam McQuaid 3 0 3

Team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 4 (0) 3 (2) 2 (2) 9 (4)
Boston (EV) 9 (4) 8 (5) 7 (4) 24 (11)


LeafsNation Three Stars:

  1. Zdeno Chara
  2. Wade Redden
  3. Brad Marchand

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  • SkinnyFish

    Obviously you’re terrible at counting scoring chances. Randy Carlyle’s entire coaching philosophy is about pushing shots to the outside into less dangerous areas. No way could a team coached by this man give up that many scoring chances. Run your “numbers” again calculator boy.

  • Derian Hatcher

    I just cannot see how Dion is considered a “top pairing D-man”. He is frequently out of position and he can rarely recover. We’ll see if he and his team mates can have a better showing in game 2.