Is Jeff O’Neill prettier now, or when he was a Hurricane?
I had to wait a couple of hours before writing the LGD today. With Peter Holland being sent to the minors for Carter Ashton, and with no available roster spots, it made sense to wait and see who the Leafs were going to bring up (or in) as their 4th line centre. With the Leafs starved for offence and production, particularly down the middle, where only Tyler Bozak has been producing recently, it would make sense for the Leafs to upgra—
Carter ashton to play centre tonight on the 4th line. Clarkson and gunnarsson will be game time decisions. #TMLtalk
— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) January 9, 2014
|Corsi Close %||48.6% (21st)||42.7% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||1.94 (24th)||2.16 (19th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.29 (15th)||2.36 (20th)|
|5v5 Diff/60||-0.35 (23rd)||-0.20 (18th)|
|PDO||99.2 (21st)||101.6 (5th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.25 (28th)||7.36 (6th)|
|5v4 SF/60||48.3 (23rd)||55.2 (9th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.68 (20th)||6.72 (22nd)|
|4v5 SA/60||52.3 (17th)||64.0 (28th)|
|Penalty Differential||+14 (3rd)||-12 (24th)|
The good news is that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage – explained here) has reached a very repeatable and reasonable 101.6. The general theory is that numbers that are too far deviated from 100.0 will come crashing up or down one way or another, but the Vancouver Canucks managed a 101.5 PDO between the 2009-10 and 2011-12 seasons, so we’ll work with that as the ‘maximum’ standard for what a team could reasonably expect in a season.
The bad news is that the Leafs need a PDO of 102 range or higher for an even goal differential at 5-on-5. Suppose they’re out-shot 25.8 to 34.7 per 60 minutes for the rest of the year, and score on, say, 9% of their shots, for a 2.32 goals per 60 minutes rate. They’d need a .933 save percentage at evens, which is very, very unlikely.
I mocked up a little chart to show how unpredictable goaltending can be. Remember how strong Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer started the season:
The tandem went from historic in the first quarter, to three points above league average in the second. Such is goaltending in the National Hockey League: it can’t be predicted over a small amount of time, which is what makes playoff races and the playoffs so exciting. Anything can happen, and one or two bounces of the puck make a huge difference.
The other bit of bad news is the specialty teams tonight: while Toronto has been getting better at staying out of the box (and Nazem Kadri and Jerry D’Amigo “drew” two penalties last game like veterans of the Divers Guild) they’re still far behind Carolina in that regard. While Toronto has a deadly powerplay and the Canes have the exact opposite, Carolina is a minus-1 in special teams goal differential while Toronto is a minus-3. Being able to consistently draw three or four calls a game and taking marginally less adds up over the course of the year to those extra two or three goals.
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
I might be cheerier, but Toronto sent down Peter Holland, who was, at 5-on-5, behind only Phil Kessel in points rate. Rest of the lineup, via Daily Faceoff:
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – Nazem Kadri – Joffrey Lupul
Jerry D’Amigo – Jay McClement – Nikolai Kulemin
Frazer McLaren – Carter Ashton – Colton Orr
Tim Gleason – Dion Phaneuf
Cody Franson – Jake Gardiner
Morgan Rielly – Paul Ranger
That fourth line is made up of the three most “Western Hockey League” first names. Frazer, Carter and Colton. A fun hobby is to go through the roster of any WHL team and pick out the silliest names. The Regina Pats, for instance, have: Carter, Morgan, Geordie (?), Boston (??), Chandler, Braden, Rylee, Dyson (!!), Austin, Dryden (?), Tye, Colby, Griffin (!!!) and Dawson. The Victoria Royals have TWO players named Logan, for crying out loud, and their backup goalie’s name is Coleman. There’s a great list of names that are present in the WHL but have never been seen in the Ontario Hockey League.
I am sorry for my side of the country sometimes for infecting the nation with hockey players named Frazer, Carter and Colton. I truly am.
With Clarkson and Gunnarsson being game time decisions, I’m guessing they’ll sub in for FML (rotating D’Amigo back down to the fourth line) or Ranger as Randy Carlyle sees fit.
Tuomo Ruutu – Jeff Skinner – Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe – Jordan Staal – Pat Dwyer
Zach Boychuk – Brett Sutter – Elias Lindholm
Drayson Bowman – Manny Malhotra – Radek Dvorak
Justin Faulk – Andrej Sekera
Jay Harrison – Brett Bellemore
John-Michael Liles – Ryan Murphy
JML gets to play his long-awaited first game against the Maple Leafs since they traded him away, while Tim Gleason returns to the town he spent years as a No. 1 defenceman. He’ll probably get a good reception.
Carolina’s possession statistics have risen by a couple of percentage points over the last month. I’m not sure if that’s improvement or regression but I’d expect them to be a better team in the second half with Semin healthy, Lindholm back from the World Juniors and probably playing more regular shifts, and Malhotra handling the defensive responsibilities opening up that space for Jordan Staal and Nathan Gerbe.
I’d expect Jordan to get a heavy dose of Bozak tonight, as Kirk Muller frequently employs his second line as a checking unit at home. I’m not sure how he’ll find minutes for his fourth line, however. Malhotra’s talent is mostly on faceoffs (taking them in the defensive end is his specialty) but I’m not convinced Carlyle will send Carter Ashton out for more than four or five draws. Malhotra’s seen below average competition this year, but may get some defensive zone shifts against Bozak or Kadri depending on how dangerous either line looks.
(and a paragraph as useful as most goalie statistics)
James Reimer against maybe Anton Khudobin. I like cooking beef or beans and mixing them with salads. Last night I had the genius idea to cook both at the same time with a full jalapeño pepper and a bunch of sriracha sauce. I mixed them with my cold vegetables and the result was very tasty, and almost worth the digestive problems this morning from all the spicy food.
Here’s a picture of last night’s dinner:
Gotta gain weight somehow.
I thought it would be poetic justice if, last night, the Ottawa Senators knocked the Leafs out of the last playoff spot on a two-point night from Clarke MacArthur. However, Paul Stastny scored a late tying goal and Tyson Barrie won it for Colorado in overtime.
Tonight, the Leafs fall out of the playoffs with a regulation loss and a win by Washington over Tampa Bay. The Leafs hold the tiebreaker over the Capitals this year so far, which is regulation and overtime wins. The Caps have 12 and the Leafs have 14, so a single point won’t do it for them.
Anyway, important games in the Eastern playoff race:
Washington @ Tampa Bay – Stakes mentioned above. Now I want steaks. CHEER FOR: Tampa Bay. I just picked up Tyler Johnson in my pool, so points from him would be a bonus.
Dallas @ New Jersey – The Devils are four back of third in the Met, which may take just a week to overcome seeing how poor teams are at holding down that final spot. CHEER FOR: Dallas and Team Canada’s Jamie Benn.
With the Leafs competing for that final Wild Card spot with both the Hurricanes and Capitals, a good showing in both back-to-back games is necessary. Leafs should aim for a split and hope for more. Don’t let the midseason schedule dictate stretegy.
Minnesota, who have Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu out to injury, play Phoenix tonight, in a game you should turn on only if a) your TV is facing the window and B) you are being held hostage and would like to signal to your neighbours that something is amiss.
If you see this game playing in a neighbour’s window tonight, please, don’t hesitate to call the police.
Leafs and Hurricanes are on Sportsnet Ontario at 7:00 Eastern.