Game Preview: Grabo the Corsi Monster returns to face [expletive] idiot coach

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We’re just past the quarter pole of the season and the Capitals and Maple Leafs find themselves in a similar boat. Both have winning records, are routinely outshot, receive good goaltending, and shoot at a near-10%-or-above success rate. The two teams are within a couple of points of each other in the Eastern Conference standings and both likely figure into the “middle tier” of the East when all is said and done. It’s worth noting that the Capitals, remarkably, only have seven wins in regulation or overtime. They’ve really bore down on the second point in the shootout with five shootout wins through 23 games. That’s 42% of their total wins, friends.

A few game day notes:

– Tyler Bozak skated this morning but does not sound probable for tonight. Apparently he was seen limping at the practice rink yesterday.

– Randy Carlyle looks to be reuniting McClement, Raymond and Kulemin as his matchup line against the threat of the NHL goals leader Alex Ovechkin and his point-a-game center Nicklas Backstrom.

– Peter Holland was arguably the Leafs’ most dangerous forward on Thursday and will rejoin Kessel and JvR on the top unit according to the practice lines. The Lupul – Kadri – Clarkson line we haven’t seen as much of as we have hoped (or at all? Can’t remember, too many line iterations) is expected to be a thing based on the practice lines.

– Mark Fraser is expected to return to the lineup in Rielly’s place. Not a fan, but this is probably a move geared towards the PK struggles.

– James Reimer will get the start. He’s 1-3 against the Capitals in his career, but won in his most recent meeting with the Capitals in January of 2013. Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals. He’s 10-7 with a .923 save percentage.

– Ovechkin coming into town is a scary prospect for the Leafs’ penalty killing units especially, which have receded this month in their killing efficiency (75% for the month, down to 16th in the league at 82.4%). Ovechkin leads the league in powerplay goals with eight on the season, a major part of Washington’s second-best 24.2% conversion rate on the powerplay.

– The Capitals’ second line of Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich and Martin Erat is a collective -14 and has been a source of frustration toward head coach Adam Oates among Capitals fans.

– The Capitals defence isn’t the sturdiest group 1-6 and the team gives up more than their fair share of shots. In fact, only .6 of a shot less than the Leafs per game. With the likes of Cam Schilling, Alex Urbom, Tyson Strachan and Dmitri Orlov in the lineup to varying degrees, the Capitals’ D has been light on NHL experience in the early season. The Caps did get Mike Green back for last night’s game against Montreal and demoted Orlov to Hershey.

– Getting bailed out by Braden Holtby and relying on the shootout despite getting outplayed and outshot has been the big concern in Washington. For while they’re a dangerous team, Washington is also very beatable. Mikhail Grabovski has not turned the Capitals into a Corsi superpower that out possesses other teams into the ground, as it turns out.

– This is one opponent where, should the game turn into a track meet of traded chances, you don’t necessarily like the Leafs’ chances, especially with Toronto not firing on all cylinders at the moment with just 15 goals in their last 8 games. The Capitals have scored just two in their last two games, but it’s still a top 10 offense that’s equipped with Alex Ovechkin (26 points), Nicklas Backstrom (24 points) and a third line providing ample scoring depth in Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward (combined 47 points).

– Obligatory Grabovski audio from after he was bought out:

– A few boo birds were out at the ACC on Thursday night after the team fell apart vs. Nashville on home ice, where they had been infallible for much of the first quarter (8-2) before Thursday). Let’s hope the ACC can remain a fortress for the Leafs going forward, starting tonight.

– Perhaps the Leafs can jump on Washington early, for a couple of reasons: The Capitals will be playing their second game in as many nights after a 3-2 loss to Montreal in Washington last night. Washington has also conceded the first goal in 13 of 23 games, whereas the Leafs have scored the first goal in 14 of 22.

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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]
  • Coldincowtown

    Looking forward to tonight’s game. I am sure Grabbo will come out flying all over the place. Our boys need a bounce back game.

  • DundasTO1

    In March, 2008, after being a healthy scratch for a game against the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Coyotes, Grabovski left the Montreal Canadiens and flew to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles to consult with his agent. The incident prompted his trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs that summer.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Grabovski#cite_note-thestar-8

  • wiski

    projected lines
    http://blog.mapleleafs.com/mondays-leafs-practice-lines/

  • Rob Ford

    “Perhaps the Leafs can jump on Washington early, for a couple of reasons: The Capitals will be playing their second game in as many nights after a 3-2 loss to Montreal in Washington last night. Washington has also conceded the first goal in 13 of 23 games, whereas the Leafs have scored the first goal in 14 of 22.”
    Take note, shot counters.

  • wiski

    @Rob Ford Loss to pens the game before, gotta make it three in a row.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    @Rob Ford Leafs have one of the worst shot differentials when games are tied, too, though.

  • Optimustic

    Go Leafs, do it for RC.  Loved Grabbo, but he’s done here.  5 – 3 Leafs.

  • Coldincowtown

    Shift_Disturber1 wiski Caryle clearly doesn’t like something in Rielly’s game so far. I trust his judgement, former Norris winner, played D a long time. He will shape Rielly into an all great round player. Who thinks Rielly goes to play for Canada at W jr’s?

  • whalz

    So Reilly is out in favour of Fraser and both Colton and Frazer are playing 4th line? Wtf is a heavy weight on Washington that justifies having 3 fighters in the lineup? I get Fraser coming in as he will give OV a better net presence in trying to clear him out, but fukc, sit Ranger instead of Reilly…(2pts the other nite) and was our best dman….I’m starting to question RC on putting his best team on the ice…

  • Alec Brownscombe

    @whalz McLaren – Smithson – Orr is a terrible line and there’s no reason for it.

  • Coldincowtown

    @whalz Will never understand the Winnipeg Blue Bomber approach game in game out, but i suspect Fraser is in to help our struggling PK.

  • GeorgeCastanza

    Absolutely NO WAY leafs will let grabo and his capitals come in and beat them.  grabo, ovalteen and ppp are going down!

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Alec Brownscombe 
    I hate these decisions Carlyle is making. Rielly is an offensive defenseman and gets two assists last game, so lets scratch the kid. WTF? 
    McLaren is the worst player on the team by a country mile. Ashton is has a tangible skill and is excellent at puck management along the boards. Ashton/McClement/Orr is a line that can chew up time in the right end of the rink.

  • whalz

    I like smithson as he is good on the draws, but with ORR and Ashton that line is a big crash and bang with speed line. Can’t for the life of me figure out why RC insists on playing both enforcers?

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Murph2417 Alec Brownscombe Could’ve done a number of things. I’d have at least one of Smith or Ashton on that line.

  • Coldincowtown

    Murph2417 Coldincowtown I thought the report on Fraser was a mild aggravation of his knee. I would expect he is good to go otherwise why play him.

  • Coldincowtown

    Anyone else notice that Mike Stephens looks a lot like Kyle Wellwood??

  • Alec Brownscombe

    CanuckUKinToronto DeclanK Alec Brownscombe McLaren shit has to stop.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Coldincowtown he does have the round face

  • Coldincowtown

    Murph2417 Coldincowtown Agreed, he looks pretty slow out there, but he was never a strong skater. Hopefully he is good to go. I still think our D is a work in progress and RC is trying to figure it out.

  • Burtonboy

    Whatttttttttttttttt….. no fist pump Rene ? I’m disappointed

  • Burtonboy

    Murph2417 -Keon- Today???????

  • wiski

    Murph2417 -Keon- Or constipated

  • Burtonboy

    Shift_Disturber1 wiski Murph2417 -Keon- Or full of it lol

  • wiski

    GO Rouge et Or

  • Burtonboy

    Comon Carolina ..big upset here today

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    lol watching Leafs today, camera pans over to Rick St Croix and Bernier at the entrance to the ice as fans hand them pens and jerseys to sign. One kid desperately trying to get Bernier to sign his jersey, St Croix jumps in and signs kids jersey, kid looks at him confused and somewhat distraught  BAHAHAH

  • wiski

    Dangle_My_Berries Dude you just fucked up my sweater. lol

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Shift_Disturber1 Dangle_My_Berries lol basically! priceless reaction

  • Jmessih

    I fell bad for Grabo after listening to that audio again. He was given the hardest minutes of the team by a mile. Listen I get that a player should accept the role that the coach gives him, yet people need to be realistic, firstly he had never played that role and when asked he did it very well. Secondly, he was criticized for not scoring, come on people he was barely in a position to due so. Thirdly, he gave 110% he gave it his all on every shift, guy would get hammered would get back up and go after the guy with a clean hit (Grabo is 5’11”). He was interview right after being bought out less than 24 hours before his wedding, and when he showed a little emotion he was again criticized for it. I hope the crowd gives Grabo a go reception, he played real hard for this team.
    All that being said GO LEAFS GO!!

  • Jmessih

    Still early but Canes up 1-0 on the Bruins, keep it up boys.

  • Knights2Leafs

    So if Fraser is drawing back in isn’t it possible he could tweak the knee again like last time he played?  Why the hell isn’t RC rolling with 7D with Rielly playing.  I’d rather Rielly in and McLaren out.

  • Leafs rule

    Yea for the pregame blog re Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward (combined 47 points). ,Clarkson will straighten them all out and leafs win 5-2,Mr Holland has a big night with 3 points ,wow its snowing and blowing here now

  • Burtonboy

    Knights2Leafs Wait till game time . Carlyle has been know to throw a few curve balls before

  • Burtonboy

    Fuck you Chara ..take that long stick and shove up your arse

  • Jmessih

    Burtonboy Easily the player in the league I hate the most

  • Leafs rule

    Burtonboy Ill second that yea  Fuck you Chara

  • Burtonboy

    Jmessih Burtonboy If he got called for all the crap he gets away with it wouldn’t be so bad.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/mirtlehttps://twitter.com/mirtle/status/404318933353639936
    So… Leafs are having trouble generating offence (15 goals in last eight games), yet sit Smith and Rielly and demote Ashton to the minors?

  • wiski

    Sad we can’t watch our national championship college football game on TV in English.

  • Jmessih

    Burtonboy Jmessih People would also realize how dirty of a player he is, the good news is more and more people are hating him, so it is just a matter of time.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Can’t take the usual number of penalties tonight or we’re probably sunk

  • Jmessih

    Alec Brownscombe We can do what ever we want we are the Leafs and we fear no one!! Nah your right Caps pp is dangerous.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Burtonboy 
    Like shots, goals are not really important at this point in time.  Win or lose, it’s much more important to scare the shit out of the other team in case we play them in the playoffs.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Burtonboy 
    Mclaren will play under 3 minutes but will look quite menacing for the other 57.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Alec Brownscombe 
    Can you pass that on to the refs please Alec.  It seems penalties or lack thereof lies entirely in their hands these days.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/LeafsStatsGuyhttps://twitter.com/LeafsStatsGuy/status/404320364744159232
    Trevor Smith may be a healthy scratch tonight – Is Carlyle feeling alright? https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Shift_Disturber1 Nice avatar

  • LeafsForLife

    Jmessih Burtonboy Alfredsson is most hated for me! Such a puke!

  • LeafsForLife

    Rielly with his first tonight. Oh wait…nvm