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Anyone that follows me on twitter or that has read any of my pieces here at MLHS knows that I enjoy using possession statistics alongside production statistics to examine and evaluate players. After recent events, like Lupul’s tweets and Alec’s interview with Greg Cronin, that have stirred up the tension between those that use these statistics and those that don’t, I thought I’d dig into why the use of statistics should be embraced.
The Leafs are all but set to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years, yet there is an inordinate amount of vitriol being directed at Toronto’s head coach Randy Carlyle, for some reason.
Considering pretty well everyone predicted the Leafs not to make the playoffs, it’s pretty funny to see the coach leading a surprising playoff appearance – and a team that’s currently fifth in the East and 7th in the League – get chastised
Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
With just ten games left on the schedule for the Leafs this season, here are ten thoughts I’ve been considering heading into those final games.
I took in what felt like a one-point win last night at the ACC. I of little faith was thinking “blow out” after the bang-bang goals in the first, but there seems to be something different about this team (visible in the Bruins game as well). They didn’t slip silently into the night, and by the end of it you had the feeling Crosby, Malkin and co. snuck away, or limped away, with the extra point.
I’ll ignore the awful first period from the Leafs – and how deeply underwater the first line was in its head to head with Crosby’s line, or how off Reimer was for the first 20 – because in many ways the fight back was just that good. Reimer played one of his poorer periods of the season in period 1, but his overall performance matched the trajectory of the rest of the team – started slow, but without him the Leafs don’t get the point.
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We’re at the half way point and the Leafs are in great shape at 15-9-0, sitting in fifth in the East with 30 points. .500 hockey from here on in, while not the best way to enter the playoffs, gets the Leafs back to the post-season.
The Leafs recent form, on paper, has also been dandy, with three wins on the trot. On one hand you’re happy with those final results, with the team finding different ways to win whether coming from behind or holding on for dear life, on the other you’re concerned with the significant portions of game in which the Leafs have been outplayed, outpossessed and outchanced.
There was a lot at stake last night, with two game sevens on the docket, and several second round berths still up for grabs. With four teams already securing spots in the conference semi-finals, the anticipation leading into last nightâ€™s game was even greater because of the uncertainty.
The Vancouver Canucks came to play in Game 7. Alex Burrows scored early inthe first period to give the Canucks an early one goal lead, which they held well into the third period. Two players on particular – Robero Luongo and Ryan Kesler competed hard and both had strong performances. Kesler was all over the ice and getting to the dirty areas to generate scoring chances. Although he wasn’t as flashy as goaltending counterpart Corey Crawford, Luongo was poised between the pipes and avoided his trend of crumbling under pressure. Unlike the previous three games of the series (all Vancouver losses), the Canucks managed to bring a physical element to the game, out hitting the Blackhawks 37-14 midway through the third.
After last night’s outcome, the second round of the Western Conference playoff picture has been determined. The Eastern Conference wraps up tonight, with Game 7 of the Boston/Montreal and Pittsburgh/Tampa Bay series.
What are your thoughts on the matchups on the West and who which teams will win tonight in the East?
Photo Credit: Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images
Despite a late third period rally with quick goals by Phil Kessel and linemate Tyler Bozak, the Leafs weren’t able to mount a comeback over the Devils in their final road game of the season. The Leafs looked a team understandably disheartened by the realization they were no longer playing meaningful hockey. Hopefully the final game against an arch rival on Saturday provides a better send off in front of the home crowd.
James Reimer had a strong start to the night, with several impressive stops through the opening frame, but appeared to show signs of fatigue after surrendering three straight goals, including aÂ snipe byÂ Ilya Kovalchuk on the powerplay. Reimer was replaced by Giguere to open the third period, who fared much better in his first appearance in several weeks.
As the Leafs prepare for their final game of the regular season on Saturday against Montreal, Ron Wilson and the rest of the coaching staff will evaluate the roster and likely recall a forward from the Toronto Marlies. All signs point to Joe Colborne, who wasÂ expected toÂ replace Armstrong in the lineup after he went down toÂ injury, but was sidelined with a head injury of his own. It will be an excellent stage to audition for a full time spot on the Leafs next season.
The Marlies will get a new arrival of their own in near-50-goal-man Greg McKegg after the elimination of his Erie Otters from the OHL playoffs was followed quickly by a three year entry level contract with the Maple Leafs. McKegg is eligible to play out the season in the AHL given his junior season is finished but as an 18-year-old he cannot play there until the same juncture next season.
Photo Credit: Luis M. Alvarez/AP Photo
Well, the luck continued yesterday for the Blue and White. With their monumental collapse in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers last season still fresh in the minds of the Boston faithful, the Bruins once again committed a major defensive lapse by surrendering five unanswered goalsÂ to the Rangers yesterday and putting the post season furtherÂ out of reach for the Leafs. Hopefully the hockey gods have the decency to balance out the Leafs’ misfortunes eventually because we haven’t seen much fall their way since the lockout.
At the end of the day, the Leafs playoffÂ aspirations rely solely on their performance throughout the entireÂ season. While a late stretch created excitement for the city of Toronto, this team must get over the hump and learn to win on aÂ consistent basis without that major, season-killing slump that has had them fighting such a deficit the past few seasons. All Leaf fans can ask for is an honest effort and demand no excuses for mid-season mediocrity. It has been well-documented that the Leafs have put together one of the best records in the NHL since the All Star break. None of that matters if the team is one of the worst through October and November.
With three important games left on the schedule, starting with tonight`s game against Washington, the Leafs will look to finish the year strong to leave no doubts that they finally jumped over the hump. Although the playoffs are still a mathematical possibility, the Buffalo Sabres must lose the rest of their games in regulation while the Leafs need to go three straight in either regulation or overtime. If the Sabres manage to record a point, Toronto will be officially, mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Hey, stranger things have happened, right? I think?
Photo Credit: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”
It’s obvious now this Murphy character was a prescient Leafs fan. After the Leafs continued to do their part by dispatching the Senators on Saturday, the worst possible scenario transpired on Sunday as the Rangers beat the Flyers before the Sabres and Hurricanes put the icing in the shitcake by taking their game to overtime. The Hurricanes and Rangers are now 7-2-1 in their last ten while Buffalo is 6-2-2. The Leafs handed Buffalo one of their regulation losses while the other came from the Hurricanes. One of two Hurricane losses came from the Leafs. One of two Rangers losses came from Buffalo. It all adds up to the Leafs taking care of their must wins but receiving practically no help from teams not involved themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Credit to the Sabres, Rangers and Canes for playing really good hockey that hasn’t allowed the Leafs to catch up after a horrible first half of their season.
For those maintaining hope until the math says there isn’t any, the Leafs would have to win out with three regulation/overtime wins while two of the three below scenarios would have to play out for them to make it:
Photo Credit: Vince Talotta/Torstar News Service
The sixth and final chapter of this season’s Battle of Ontario gets underway tonight in another must-win game for the Leafs, who are five points back of the eighth place New York Rangers with four games left on the schedule. The 14th place Ottawa Senators willÂ look to play a spoiler role against their arch rival in hopes of putting an end to their remaining playoff aspirations. Although the Senators have struggled as of late, they have managed to stay competitive in games due to the impressive goaltending display from Craig Anderson, who was recently re-signed by the team to a four year contract. The playoff chances may be remote, but the last way we want them put to rest is at the hands of the Senators.
(Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)
The Maple Leafs visit the Joe Louis Arena in the only meeting of the season against anÂ original six rival in the Detroit Red Wings. Coming off their third-straight win after a victory in Colorado on Thursday, tonight’s game is the next step in the attempt to more or less run the board and climb into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference.Â Despite being second in the West, the Red Wings have struggled in the month of March, going 4-4-3 in their last 11, including two losses in regulation and an overtime loss, in their last three games.
Toronto is looking to capitalize on the Red Wings glut of injuries. DetroitÂ will beÂ without leading offensive forwardsÂ Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Todd BertuzziÂ (back) and Johan Franzen (groin). With a 16-7-4 overall record and a 12-3-1 road record when James Reimer is between the pipes, the Leafs have been one of the top three teams since the all star break, behind only the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils. In order to prove up to making the playoffs, let alone to competing in them, Toronto needs to be able to beat the best. Let’s hope the continued lack of outside help hasn’t taken some of the wind out of the Leafs’ collective sail, as the state of Florida failed the Leafs last night with Carolina and Buffalo wins over Tampa Bay and the Panthers.
Follow the jump for today’s Leaf Links.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had one day to stir over their frustrating overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and were hoping to turn the page and move forward as they welcomed the Edmonton Oilers to the Air Canada Centre. With the Oilers in town, fans were treated to a battle between two of the league’s youngest and quickest teams. Unfortunately for both organizations it seems the inexperience is keeping them among the bottom of the NHL StandingsÂ and in most statistical categories. On this night, that youth and excitement was one sided as the Oilers counter attacked their way to a 5-0 victory.
Kicking off the first of two divisional gamesÂ on consecutive nights, the Toronto Maple Leafs traveled a short trip down theÂ QEW to take on the Buffalo Sabres at theÂ HSBC Arena in the second of six meetings between the two teams. After tonight’s 3-1 victory, the Sabres now holdÂ a 2-0 record against the Leafs followingÂ a 3-2 shootoutÂ decision on Nov. 6 in Toronto.
During most of Monday’s victory over the Dallas Stars, The Leafs controlled the play on both sides of the ice, and looked to build on that momentum as they searched for their second road win in 6 games. In fact, not since Oct. 15 have the Leafs been able to find the win columnÂ while playing away from the Air Canada Centre. If that trend is to change, the offense needs to be a factor and become involved rather quickly, especially against a Buffalo Sabres team who is struggling at home. Although it is the obvious intention, Leaf forward and former Sabre, Clarke MacArthur believes the key to his team’s success was to open the scoring early and build from there.
Week one of the Toronto Maple Leafs schedule is in the books, and while it only featured two games, there is plenty to talk about as far as the season goes. Â The Maple Leafs are off to a 2-0 start, having won their second game of the season nearly one month ahead of the time they got win two last season.
Through week one of the season, here are the Maple Leafs player power rankings, as seen by me.
It is by no means the end of his career, strictly the next step.
On Monday, Nazem Kadri, 7th overall selection in the 2009 draft, was assigned to the Toronto Marlies. The player in whom a whole city had welcomed, became enamoured with and inked into their own starting lineup will not appear at ACC at allâ€¦ at least not yet. It will prove to be a powerful lesson for the 19 year old, if not the whole city of Toronto; the Toronto Maple Leafs are about winning hockey games, not necessarily selling tickets.
As we await the season opener for the big club, let’s see how some of the kids are doing:
- Greg McKegg is off to an excellent start with 8 points in 5 games played for the Erie Otters. Greg recorded two shorthanded goals and added another assist for good measure in a 5-2 win last night over the London Knights. McKegg is currently tied for 5th overall in OHL scoring.
- Brad Ross has also started well out of the gate with 4 goals and 5 points in 3 games played for the Portland Winterhawks. Without Nino Niederreiter and possibly Ryan Johansen this season, Ross will be counted upon to shoulder a much bigger offensive load. He’s responded well so far, taking a hold of the team’s scoring lead in addition to posting a team best +5 rating.
- Jesse Blacker is back with the Owen Sound Attack and has 2 points through 2 games played. It’s clear that Blacker has plenty of offensive potential, but he will have to work at rounding out the other areas of his game and improve upon last year’s team worst -22 rating.
- The Toronto Marlies have started their hockey season on a positive note with back to back preseason wins over the Rochester Americans. Forward Marcel Mueller has been an absolute force so far, recording 4 goals and 1 assist for 5 points through the pair of games. The much maligned Mikhail Stefanovich will look for a big rebound year and is off to a good start with a pair of goals in the preseason opener. James Reimer was the winning goaltender on Friday while Ben Scrivens stopped 21 of 24 shots for the victory on Saturday. Toronto will open the season Saturday, October 9th against the Rochester Americans at the Ricoh Coliseum.
Perhaps the best part about Nazem Kadri’s two-goal, three-point performance last night against the Ottawa Senators is that he can start the season with the Toronto Marlies with his head held high. Certainly, Leafs fans, management and Kadri alike will hope he can relay last night’s performance on the wing into another strong showing against Detroit on Friday and make a case for a place in the big Leafs’ top six for the October 7th date with the Habs. But should Kadri’s play return to the form he exhibited in previous preseason showings – by no means terrible, but not as impressive as it will take – he can take solace and confidence in last night’s achievements and start off on the right foot at the Ricoh.
With the pre-season nearly finished, the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape for 2010-11. Similarly, the Marlies are starting to become more defined as major league cuts are shuffled down to the minor league club. What is not so clearly defined on the Marlies is their goaltending situation. There will be a ton of competition between the four goalies in the Leafs minor pro system to get starts this season and those that do will have to seize the opportunity. Letâ€™s take a look:
One of the more interesting subplots to the Maple Leafs’ 2010-11 preseason has been the Michael Liambas situation. Offered a tryout – amidst much fanfare – in time for the team’s annual Rookie Camp, the infamous winger was ultimately released on Thursday, during the first round of cuts at the NHL training camp.
Ordinarily, such a move would be regarded as no more than a footnote, a regular or even “to be expected” occurrence which takes place in any training camp. But Liambas’ situation was – and remains – anything but ordinary.
Be sure to check out Nikhil’s post-game thoughts from last night.
Tuesday night, September 21st, about 6:40 p.m.Â I am dancing – yes, dancing, provided you can call a kind of frenetic spasticism punctuated with finger snaps and some twirling hands “dancing” – to no music in my kitchen as I cook our pasta for dinner.Â I am in a rush, and I am excited, because after a long summer of legal wrangling over the Kovalchuk contract, eternal speculation about Tomas Kaberle’s status and apparently endless MSM vs. blogger hissy fits, the puck is finally dropping on the preseason.Â Don’t get me wrong, I know that the preseason sucks.Â I know it’s not reflective or in any way predictive of how the team will do during the regular season – I’ve been a hockey fan long enough to know that, and last year’s brilliant exhibition campaign is still fresh in my memory.Â Almost as fresh as the oh-and-eight start that followed it, once the games counted.
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