Game Preview: Kadri returns as Leafs host Preds

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Photo: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs emerged with a convincing enough 4-0 win the last time these two teams met (October 10), but the game wasn’t always without doubt.

The game featured two 8-10 minute spells without a Leaf shot, both in the first period and to start the second. It was one of the Leafs’ worst nights in the faceoff circle, going 5 for 22 in the first 30 minutes and 38% overall on the night. Ironically, the Leafs scored their first goal off a lost faceoff when JvR pounced on a puck behind the net and fed Kessel in front.

The Leafs have improved in this area of late in part thanks to the addition of Jerred Smithson (57.5%), but also in large part thanks to Jay McClement, who now finds himself tied for 15th in the league among centermen to take 200 or more faceoffs this season at 55.4%. Toronto’s now 47.1% overall, which is poor but quickly improving.

The Leafs broke the 0-0 deadlock in the October 10 win after accomplishing little in the first 30 minutes, which opened up the play against a Nashville team keeps things tight when they’re playing their game. Morgan Rielly had one of his best games of the early season, cementing for me, anyway, that he deserved to stick around for a while. Bernier recored his first shutout as a Leaf while Kessel and JvR led the way offensively with three goals and five points between them.

The Leafs will get a boost in the form of Nazem Kadri’s return. The Leafs went a commendable 2-1 without Kadri (and Bozak and Bolland, obviously), and now look to build on the last couple of games with a new configuration down the middle. It’s expected Kadri will join JvR and Kessel up top, bumping Holland down between Kulemin and Raymond on line three. That’s just based on the practice lines.

Raymond – McClement – Kulemin was effective against the Islanders on Tuesday night, taking a number of shifts against the Tavares line and putting him on the defensive for much of the night with some sustained offensive zone time. I would keep that line together, myself, but Carlyle opted to keep Lupul – Smith – Clarkson together in practice, and that would leave Peter Holland to play with Smithson and Orr on the fourth line, or something.

How many minutes Peter Holland plays in this one will be interesting to monitor now that he’s been moved down the lineup. It could give us a clue as to whether or not it will be Holland or Smith returning to the Marlies when Tyler Bozak returns, presumably on Saturday. Bozak will take over the top line center spot while Kadri becomes the 2C; it is likely a question of whether or not Carlyle wants to put McClement in the third line center role next to a Kulemin and Raymond and continue forth with that as a shutdown line (while Smith moves to L4), or if Holland is going to play as 3C while Carlyle protects the line’s minutes.

Kadri, for his part, hopefully doesn’t let the suspension affect how he plays his game. Kadri mentioned being “on probation,” but he’s at his best when he plays with an edge. He should take note that the League basically admitted his hit on Granlund was clean. A reckless collision with the goaltender, which Brendan Shanahan called unintentional, shouldn’t be any reason for him to neuter his desire to mix it up.

In net the Leafs are likely to continue with Jonathan Bernier, who shut out the Predators on October 10th and is coming off a win on Tuesday. Not that ‘win and you’re in’ is the model Carlyle is following… Got to feel for Reimer, but no one is going to complain if the Leafs keep getting .930+ goaltending night in, night out.

The Predators are without Pekke Rinne and prior to this week were on a horrible run of games in which they allowed 3-5 goals and scored 0-1 of their own while losing four straight. They broke out in a big way on Saturday against Chicago with a 7-2 win and shut out Detroit 2-0 on Tuesday, so they’re rolling in with the momentum of a couple of good showings against some good competition. Rookie Marek Mazanec is likely to start in net (2-2 with a .927 save percentage).

The Leafs fell to last in the League in shots against per game since Tuesday, and there has been some interesting remarks coming out of the Leaf dressing room as it pertains to the ongoing shot paradox. Said Lupul:

“Our coaches track scoring chances, not shots. After the game, they put up the scoring chances. And if there’s ever a big disparity in that, it’s going to be an issue with the coaches and the players. But if [opponents] get 40 shots and five scoring chances, that doesn’t concern us.”

Certainly Tuesday night’s win over the Islanders was a game in which the Leafs were soundly outshot but were getting the better of the scoring chances. Whether that has been the case in general over the course of the season is a matter of contention.

Head to Head:LeafsPredators
Record13-7-110-9-2
GF/G2.86 (10th)2.29 (24th)
GA/G2.29 (9th)2.90 (21st)
SF/G26.5 (28th)28.4 (23rd)
SA/G35.9 (30th)30.5 (18th)
PP24.3% (2nd)20.0% (13th)
PK84.0% (11th)82.2% (16th)
5 on 5 F/A1.20 (8th)0.63 (29th)
Sh%10.8% (3rd)8.1% (23rd)
Sv%93.6% (2nd)90.5% (25th)
FO%47.1% (25th)54.9% (2nd)

***

GAME DAY LINKS:

CBC, NBC Aim for Similar Feel to HBO’s 24/7
A look at the upcoming “NHL Revealed” series.

Phil Kessel Has More to Give
Michael Langlois wonders if the early ‘one-dimensional player’ assessments were perhaps off the mark.

How Toronto Scores
A look at the Leafs’ goal scoring to date reveals a rush-attack tendency. Well worth a read.

Leafs Not Satisfied with 1st Quarter Results
To a man, Leafs players admit there is lots of work to be done.

Book Review: A Great Game, Prime Minister Harper’s Hockey History Book
Cam Charron offers his take on Stephen Harper’s recently-published, extensive history of the origins of professional hockey.

Behold the Reading Royals Ugly Christmas Sweater Jerseys
Not sure if this is the best thing ever, or the worst.

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Sean McIndoe plays mythbuster with a number of common NHL perceptions, including “Red Light” Racicot, the injury that ended Neely’s career, and (predictably) Courtnall-for-Kordic.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • Burtonboy

    According to the MSM we never won the game against NYI . The Iles just didn’t show up and we got lucky

  • wendelsway1

    GO LEAFS GO!!!

  • PEIleafnation

    what time is the morning practice? to see who starts in goal

  • Burtonboy

    PEIleafnation Usually around 10 am ET

  • wendelsway1

    Burtonboy Ha…..wait ’til our roster is healthy…our “luck” is sure to improve  😉

  • PEIleafnation

    Burtonboy PEIleafnation thanks

  • wendelsway1

    So what says yous……Reims or Bernier starting tonight?….hoping for Reims, myself

  • dlb eh

    wendelsway1 
    if we beat them last time, that guy.  if we lost, the other guy.

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy 
    Yup.  the Isles are a terrible team, but that doesn’t mean we don’t earn our wins.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Having a Preds blogger on + Mirtle for a pregame show tonight.

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy They were saying Tavares never showed up. Well I think Jay ,Kulie and May Ray may have had something to to with that lol

  • dlb eh

    Kessel taped his wrist?  i’m betting it was a gaming injury.  judging by the sniping he did last game i believe he’s been powering up on the battlefront 4 game.  did i use any gamer language there at all?  meh

  • Cameron19

    dlb eh No.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    dlb eh COD Ghost while faking sick. Did his wrist in.

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy
    not to mention Phaneuf
    JT was trying.  he just had no one helping.  oh, and by the way reporters: that’s what most games look like.  the stars lose the puck ya know.

  • Burtonboy

    Alec Brownscombe dlb eh He had that wrist taped last yr too and the yr before if I remember correctly

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy
    check the release dates on those games?

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy ????

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy Ahhhh now I get ya . I’m not a gamer so I rarely think of that stuff

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy
    came home last night, saw the kid hammering away on that game … put it all together for Phil

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy LOL

  • wendelsway1

    Burtonboy dlb eh JT showed up…..but was quickly contained by our glorious third line.  :)

  • dlb eh

    Murph2417
    Jesus Murph!

  • MaxwellHowe

    The forecheckers are going to have to put a lot of pressure on the defensmen of Nashville – that is clearly the Predators stremgth.  The Leafs can’t be letting them dictate the pace of the game.

  • dlb eh

    MaxwellHowe 
    last game we played, Jones was shaky and Weber couldn’t play a perfect game.  i expect our forward lines to do well tonight.
    they might not have a lot of scorers up front, but if they’re a lunch box (hard working) group that could easily leade to a couple of PP and some lucky bounce (for them).
    we need to match their expected effort and come out focused.  it’s a good game to play like we believe we’re a top team, and a good time to prove it.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    14-7-1 sounds juicy to me. Let’s make it happen.

  • Airfreshener

    dlb eh Burtonboy Battlefield 😉 battlefront is next year.. gawl

  • LightmyLeaf

    wendelsway1 Burtonboy dlb eh so well contained I had to look for him…..a couple of “back-downs” by the Isles didn’t help their momentum either…although I don’t blame them….just go home with a loss…..the hit by Kulie was loud….

  • dlb eh

    @Airfreshener
    pwned
    lol

  • Airfreshener

    😉

  • The Truth Hurts

    I’ve got a better shot than Kessel!

  • LightmyLeaf

    wendelsway1 Burtonboy dlb eh I noticed half way through, that we were not outplayed at all, yet shots were double for the Isles….. watching the flow of the game, I had no idea we were outshot at that point….although bernie makes it look so easy as well……then it was shut down time…shots came up fast

  • The Truth Hurts

    Oh that too

  • dlb eh

    The Truth Hurts 
    so it’s your attitutde that held you back?

  • wendelsway1

    The Truth Hurts You leave Kessel alone, HH…….ya big meanie  :)

  • ConnorCrisp

    Damn could sure use my CORSI shirt right about now…

  • The Truth Hurts

    Haha np WW Kessel can do know wrong in my eyes.

  • Burtonboy

    ConnorCrisp Declan said it would take 2 weeks from the time it was shipped

  • rustynail

    Burtonboy ConnorCrisp when were they shipped?

  • rustynail

    https://twitter.com/MapleLeafsHShttps://twitter.com/MapleLeafsHS/status/403519451217162240
    We’ll have https://twitter.com/mirtle and https://twitter.com/Forechecker on live for the pregame show at MLHS around 6 p.m. EST.

  • vinoa

    LightmyLeaf I’ve noticed that about a few games. A lot of games seem to be going our way but then the shots on goal come up and I never seem to remember the opponents taking that many shots.

  • Burtonboy

    rustynail Burtonboy ConnorCrisp Can’t remember for sure . Must be getting close to 2 wks now though

  • Burtonboy

    rustynail Burtonboy ConnorCrisp Just checked the email . It was printed on Nov 7 th so its should arrive very soon

  • Mind Bomb

    Alec Brownscombe  NIcely Done Alec. I love other teams points of view

  • rustynail

    Burtonboy rustynail ConnorCrisp wonder f the 2 weeks includes Canada Post standard storage :)

  • Burtonboy

    rustynail Burtonboy ConnorCrisp Hah …they have to take time to feed the horses

  • Burtonboy

    Nonis just said one of the mos encouraging things is we have put up points knowing full well we can play a lot better then we have.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    CanuckUKinToronto rustynail Thanks, Canuck.. Still can think of 100 things I’d like to do with it. One step at a time.
    Thanks for reading/participating day in day out.

  • wendelsway1

    Mind Bomb Alec Brownscombe So do I and generally listen to out of town commentary when games are on Leafs TV as I have to stream…….It’s funny how complimentary I find these commentators……usually more positive about our Leafs than the home guys are….go figure.

  • Mind Bomb

    wendelsway1 Mind Bomb Alec Brownscombe  Exactly WW