Game Preview: Winter Classic Primer at the ACC

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The Maple Leafs enter this game trailing the Red Wings for third place in the Division (remember – the funny new format means top 3 teams from each division make the playoffs) by just two points. The teams are both middle of the pack-ish in goals for and against. Both teams have been plodding along on the wrong side of .500 the last 10 games.

One area where the Red Wings have remained formidable is on the road, where they’re 10-3-3 this season.

9 of the Red Wings’ 41 points have come in losing efforts (most in the league). For the Leafs, the extra point has been a key to their sustenance, with only 11 of their 18 wins coming in regulation. What a reversal of trends the shootout (5/18 wins) has been from seasons prior in Leafland.

It’s fair to say the transition to the East for the most consistently successful team in the NHL of the last 20 years hasn’t come with the same weaker-Conference dominance some were expecting.

“Dzone poise & execution” was something Mike Babcock scribbled in his notes on 24/7. The Red Wings have less of it without the Lidstroms, Rafalskis and Stuarts of yesteryears. For a while there the Red Wings were allowing over 30 shots a game regularly (I think they were at 32/game over the first 15), which is uncharacteristic of the once-possession giants.

As a well coached team is wont to do, though, that number has improved as the season has gone along and the Wings have moved the average down to 29 per game. An inability to score enough has been an issue this month.

Injuries to Zetterberg and Datsyuk haven’t helped the Red Wing cause. Zetterberg’s current back injury, which has sidelined him since December 1, has kept him out the last 10 games, during which the Red Wings have scored just 19 goals. The Swede missed just four games in his three seasons prior. Overlapping this injury was seven missed games by Pavel Datsyuk, who returned December 10th and has 5 points in 6 games since returning.

Switching out Stephen Weiss, the Clarkson of the Red Wings so far this season, for Valtteri Filppula is looking like a blunder in the early going. Filppula was coming off a 17-point 48 game season after a 66-point career year in 2011-12. His contract demands were deemed exorbitant by Ken Holland, but Filppula makes $100,000 more than Weiss and currently has 20 more points.

The Red Wings are an aging outfit, and according to the first episode of 24/7 perhaps the League’s most boring. As much as that’s been a running joke this week, the no-nonsense approach and standard for organizational excellence shone through in that Episode, as well as Mike Babcock’s impressive intensity.

In terms of lineup notes, Jonathan Bernier, battling a minor injury or illness late this week, is apparently available to Carlyle. Other than a possible change there, the lineup will likely remain much the same as Thursday’s winning combination. For the Red Wings, Jonas Gustavsson will start against his former team. It’d be nice if he got lit up and repaid Leafs fans after his seasons of suckitude in T.O. But who are we kidding?

Enjoy the game as well as Episode two of 24/7 featuring the two teams, airing on HBO right after the end of the game.

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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]
  • Jay_Berg

    https://twitter.com/jonastsn1050/status/414418072531771394

  • JWaterdrager

    The http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ enter this game trailing the Red Wings for third place in the Division
    correction: detroit is 4th in the division

  • Jay_Berg

    Looked really good in the first period and then trailed off. Story of our season

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Gilbey93 that dish he made to kessel for that near goal was buttery smooth

  • wendelsway1

    Jay_Berg Reims vs Gussy…..beautiful……GO REIMS GO!!!

  • JWaterdrager

    Gilbey93 That is the conference.

  • theacs1966

    Dangle_My_Berries Gilbey93 Ya, that one gave me a semi.

  • Cameron19

    Jay_Berg The third period turtling is on Carlyle though, in my opinion – not the players.  He says he doesn’t want them to stop attacking, but then he gives McClement a shit ton of minutes and wonders why there’s no offense.

  • Jay_Berg

    Is there not anyone at all on the marlies we could play as the 4C rather than Smithson? He’s not an NHL player.

  • Jay_Berg

    I can’t fuckin stand how much he uses McClement.

  • theacs1966

    Jay_Berg The whole org is wafer thin at C

  • Ryan

    Jay_Berg 
    McClement is the only centre who can win key face offs with Bozak out. Who would you suggest to use

  • Cameron19

    Jay_Berg I think that they probably could play Carrick there, but they also know it’s only 2-3 games since Bozak is nearly back, so just stick with the veteran.

  • Jay_Berg

    Those aren’t really 4C options though anyways.
    I’m not a huge Carrick fan but there’s no way he can be worse then Smithson.

  • Cameron19

    theacs1966 Jay_Berg Well, when you have 4 of them on IR, there aren’t many teams who just keep calling up more centers without issue.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    theacs1966Dangle_My_BerriesGilbey93 that it was a goal for sure

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Cameron19 Jay_Berg He’d use Bolland there if he could. We know how the hierarchy works with Carlyle. Doesn’t trust Naz/Holland on defensive zone faceoffs.

  • theacs1966

    Gilbey93 Jay_Berg Abbott played and scored last night, but he’s a winger.  He’s passed his assists total from last year already so it might not be a bad idea.  We dont’ win draws anyway.

  • Cameron19

    Gilbey93 Jay_Berg Abbott is a winger.

  • Ryan

    Alec Brownscombe Cameron19 Jay_Berg

  • Jay_Berg

    He doesn’t just get used for key faceoffs. He gets more icetime then holland. Its inexcusable.

  • theacs1966

    Gilbey93 Cameron19 Jay_Berg 5 goal 21 helpers, his stats look like he’s a C.

  • Cameron19

    Smithson on the roster for a couple games isn’t an issue as long as Carlyle doesn’t try to get him to kill penalties or give him stupid match-ups.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    team is playing for Reimer right now, good to go back to him

  • theacs1966

    Cameron19 theacs1966 Jay_Berg Your’re right, we’re so deep at C.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Jay_Berg I won’t pretend Holland and Kadri are accomplished defensive players.
    However, they may be able to keep the play in the other end for a while.
    That’s where the issue of Bolland/Bozak being out is compounded. Late in games Carlyle wants centers he can trust – he trusts the two Bs more than the youngsters.

  • theacs1966

    Dangle_My_Berries theacs1966 Gilbey93 Yep.

  • Cameron19

    Alec Brownscombe Cameron19 Jay_Berg It ends up amounting to the same thing though – whether it’s McClement winning the draw and then being unable to create anything so getting hemmed back in his own zone, or Kadri losing the draw, we risk something in both situations.  With Kadri though, you at least have the possibility that he’ll get the puck and create something.

  • 4evrblue

    Jay_Berg I can’t wait to see Carrick play live. His stats point to a physical guy with a little offense. We need more of those guys IMO

  • Cameron19

    theacs1966 Cameron19 Jay_Berg I don’t believe that’s what I said. I could be wrong.

  • Jay_Berg

    I can understand that to a certain extent but now are Naz and Holland supposed to grow and develop in those types of situations if they never get the opportunity? He’s so conservative it’s frustrating.
    That was one thing that Wilson would do at least.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Cameron19 Alec Brownscombe Jay_Berg I’m not agreeing with it – just saying, if he had one of his two favorite centers, it would be different, which is where the injury effects are multiplied – injuries + Carlyle’ refusal to trust Kadri/Holland.
    Kadri would certainly get chastised for leaving Crosby open in the slot.

  • 4evrblue

    theacs1966Gilbey93Cameron19Jay_Berg I think he played C in college but has been moved to the wing in the AHL

  • wendelsway1

    Agree with Carlyle…..Bernier’s pads are really ugly..lol

  • theacs1966

    Cameron19 theacs1966 Jay_Berg We were thin before the injuries.  Our top 4c is a poor group with the exception of Kadri, and he has some learning still to do, after him, the talent really drops off and there is no one close in the system.  Maybe Gauthier, some day, but nothing on the Marlies.

  • ProfessorRance

    Cameron19 I agree. I like how he had Holland on the fourth line there last game. Lead to a goal.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    wendelsway1 vintage…..that’s the word

  • Jmessih

    https://twitter.com/jonasTSN1050https://twitter.com/jonasTSN1050/status/414418072531771394
    No James Reimer at optional Leafs morning skate. Appears he’ll make third straight start against Detroit tonight.

  • theacs1966

    Gilbey93 4evrblue theacs1966 Cameron19 Jay_Berg I want him called up.  Broll too, so we along with Holland can have a 4th line that plays more than the 3 minutes they played last game.

  • Cameron19

    theacs1966 Cameron19 Jay_Berg Bolland and Bozak are poor centers? Gauthier is going to amount to nothing with his offensive output.  He’s a 4th line center.

  • wendelsway1

    Dangle_My_Berries wendelsway1   Nope…..they’re just plain ugly  lol

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    wendelsway1Dangle_My_Berries touché

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    wendelsway1Dangle_My_Berries reims pads are kinda cool

  • Cameron19

    Gilbey93 Cameron19 theacs1966 Jay_Berg Hopefully he can take leaps and bounds offensively to get there, but man, his current production is embarrassing considering half the Q is better than a PPG.

  • theacs1966

    Cameron19 theacs1966 Jay_Berg They’re both fine 2/3 Centers.  What do we do if Kadri goes down?  We have no skill at C and none coming though the pipeline.  He better turn out to be better than a 4th or that is a wasted of a 1st rounder.

  • Cameron19

    theacs1966 Cameron19 Jay_Berg Pretty much half of all 1st rounders are wasted. They don’t all even make the NHL, much less make an impact.  That’s the reality of the draft.

  • Ryan

    wendelsway1 
    Is there a picture of there pads anywhere

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Gilbey93 theacs1966 Jay_Berg Do you know how his coach in the Q is using him ? He might be using him primarily as a defensive specialist

  • wendelsway1

    @Ryan wendelsway1 Google is your friend  😉   lol  :)

  • sniperstar

    ProfessorRance Cameron19 Not to take anything away from RC but i believe that was just a situation where Smithson switched off and his linemates didn’t