I thought the Leafs weren’t explicitly out-played last night. Despite getting out-shot by some outrageous number at even strength, this was like those games in the first week of the season against Ottawa and Montreal by having the raw powerplay advantage.
Obviously the big question is on James van Riemsdyk and him being switched to centre. I didn’t think the breakout was particularly good for the first line last night and they didn’t have a lot of transition opportunities. The Leafs didn’t get their first two-on-one until overtime and Phil Kessel showed very little in the game save for his goal, which was outstanding, but he didn’t get a lot of chances to attack the Devils line.
That’s just in case you were wondering about my thoughts. At any rate, the Leafs won, which means Randy Carlyle has no reason to move Nazem Kadri up to the top line again. That said, Kadri’s line with David Clarkson and Mason Raymond was the only one against the Devils that consistently generated offensive pressure. The Leafs are in Boston tonight, to play the team the Leafs played their five best games of the season last year in the playoffs. As far as I’m concerned, nothing else really matters about the matchup.
|Corsi Close %||52.2% (10th)||41.9% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.39 (15th)||2.24 (18th)|
|5v5 GA/60||1.40 (2nd)||2.08 (10th)|
|PDO||103.8 (3rd)||103.2 (4th)|
|5v4 GF/60||6.31 (17th)||7.88 (6th)|
|5v4 SF/60||58.6 (9th)||56.5 (12th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.06 (15th)||4.53 (7th)|
|4v5 SA/60||46.8 (6th)||61.7 (25th)|
|Penalty Differential||-3 (17th)||-8 (28th)|
Toronto’s gone a couple of games without scoring at even strength, so Boston’s PDO is actually slightly higher than the Leafs’ coming in. The third line with Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith have benefit the most from that. Kelly is a +1 despite being on the ice for 64 shots for and 92 against. Playing in front of Tuukka Rask helps.
The Bruins remain a strong puck-possession team despite losing some important horses in the offseason. Their offence hasn’t come together yet and Loui Eriksson hasn’t been quite as dominant as we might have thought playing with Patrice Bergeron. He has just two goals in ten games this season, and his 25 shots on goal is pretty good, but not necessarily awe-inspiring. As a result, David Krejci’s line, with Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, has taken over much of the minutes. They’re drawing the top defensive pairings, while Bergeron is still playing against the top forwards.
It’s an interesting matchup here. I made the point before the last playoff series, that the Leafs weaknesses play towards the Bruins’ strengths, which make this a mis-match on paper. The fact that Toronto played the Bruins so well in last year’s postseason (and that’s not a mirage—the Leafs had a 48.3% Corsi Close against the Bruins between Games 2 and 7. That was their second best six-game stretch on the season in Corsi, and it came against a possession juggernaut).
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
Joffrey Lupul – James van Riemsdyk – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – Nazem Kadri – David Clarkson
Troy Bodie – Jay McClement – Nikolai Kulemin
Frazer McLaren – Jerred Smithson
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner – Cody Franson
Mark Fraser – Paul Ranger
The Leafs completely ignored the fourth line with Orr out of the lineup last night. The best line was clearly Kadri’s, which was positive in possession (seriously, David Clarkson is good at this!) and attacking the Devils all night. They’ll be a key tonight, as some of Boston’s problems lie in defensive depth. The Leafs had their best offensive outings in the playoffs when Andrew Ference was out to suspension, and it appears as penance for crimes in a previous hockey season, the NHL has banished Ference to the Edmonton Oilers, so he will not be in the Bruins lineup.
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Loui Eriksson
Carl Soderberg – Chris Kelly – Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara – Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg – Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Limited depth, but their horses are exceptional. Bergeron, Chara and Rask are top five in the world at their respective positions, and most of Bergeron and Chara’s plus value comes on the defensive side so the Bruins are tough to create shots against. At home, Claude Julien loves to play hard matches on top lines, so Bergeron will see a lot of Kessel tonight.
Serious question… how do Bruins fans even taunt Kessel now? I guess now that Hamilton is actually playing regular shifts, the trade doesn’t look that bad in retrospect for Boston, but I find it funny that the Bruins squandered away Kessel in the first place, and then squandered away the guy they got with the lottery pick acquired in the trade.
That first line is putting up points… but Milan Lucic is rolling with some high percentages right now.
James Reimer versus Tuukka Rask. Don’t you hate when you whip up a batch of pancakes on a Saturday morning and realize you forgot to buy maple syrup?
Also, Shoeless Joe’s on King Street is hosting a “Sprots!” (seriously!) night presented by Wiser’s Whisky. Hit up our pal Steve Dangle for details if you’re interested. Puck drop is 7:00 on CBC. Never forget to StreakCred.