Game Day Notes: Game #54, Leafs at Jets

Carlyle Welcomed back to Winnipeg

The Maple Leafs look to put the Dallas debacle behind them tonight in Winnipeg. As far as the playoff race goes, Montreal lost their third in a row last night and the two teams remain tied on points for 3rd in the division. The bad news is that Detroit and New Jersey both won last night and are sniffing at the Leafs‘ heels in the wildcard race.

– This quote isn’t conclusive at all re: tonight’s lineup, but after a blowout like Thursday’s loss, it might indicate a change is coming on the backend tonight.

– The two obvious questions: who would come out, and how would Fraser or Ranger improve things? One thing the Leafs were doing well during their winning streak was producing offense from the defense (14 points from Phaneuf, Gardiner, Rielly, Franson combined for 14 points in five games before Thursday) and exiting the zone more efficiently, at least before they shut things down with the lead. The ‘kid’ pairing, while prone to getting caught up ice or the (maybe not-so) occasional giveaway due to inexperience or unchecked creativity, on the upside is more than capable of rushing the puck themselves and providing those quick ups to get their line moving in the right direction. Tim Gleason has also helped, as he has moved the puck fairly efficiently, picked his spots well in terms of stepping up on attackers at the blueline, and has won battles on the boards.

– It seems silly not to give the group that pieced together the Leafs best stretch of wins in eight years a chance to rebound from what was an off performance from top to bottom, including the Leafs’ top line and top pairing, who were out for 4 goals against, their highly-productive PP stumbling and getting scored on twice (once officially), and both of their highly-ranked goaltenders having an off night. The Leaf defence pairings seemed to finally be gelling a little bit, so why not see how this group responds before making a change? We’ll see how it shakes out.

– Under Claude Noel the Jets employed an aggressive stack forecheck, and the key to beating the Jets was beating that forecheck; the complaint was that the team would concede the neutral zone easily and give up far too many odd man opportunities against. I haven’t seen the Jets under Paul Maurice yet, but the stats say they are 4-1-0, and that they are conceding fewer goals since he got there. Maurice is trying to bring some defensive emphasis to a team he felt was “cheating for offense” too often. In a recent road trip to California, the Jets beat the high flying Ducks 3-2 and limited another great offense to just one goal against the Sharks on Thursday, although they couldn’t score and lost their first game under Maurice by a score of 1-0. The Jets have conceded just eight goals in five games since Maurice has arrived.

– Noel also never consistently line matched. The other night, Maurice matched Setoguchi-Jokinen-Byfuglien up against Joe Thornton’s line. While the Jets held on for much of the night, the eventual 1-0 game-winning goal came from the Pavelski and Thornton line. We’ll see if Maurice tries to combat Kessel, JvR and Bozak with the same combination.

– Speaking of which, Phil Kessel has never played a game against Winnipeg where he hasn’t scored a goal. He has a seven-game goal streak ongoing against the Jets with eight goals and ten points over that span.

– During the last five games (since Maurice’s arrival), the underperforming Ondrej Pavelec has moved his goals against down from 3.14 to 2.94. Over the stretch he’s conceded just eight goals on 137 shots (.942 save percentage). He had easy nights vs. Phoenix, Edmonton and Calgary (faced just 21 shots on average), but held two-high powered offences in Anaheim and San Jose to just three goals on 74 shots (.959 save percentage).

– James Reimer has been given the start tonight in his home province, looking to forget his portion of the Dallas performance and return to his form from the Colorado game two nights earlier. Jonas Siegel has the latest update in the goaltender competition with quotes from Reimer. Reimer is 2-2 in four starts vs. the Jets with a .903 save percentage.

– The Leafs are 3-3-1 in seven games against the Jets since they moved to Winnipeg.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Winnipeg Jets Matchup

2011-12 season:Wed Oct 19 2011at TorToronto 4, Winnipeg 3 (SO)
2011-12 season:Sat Dec 31 2011at WpgWinnipeg 3, Toronto 2
2011-12 season:Thu Jan 5 2012at TorToronto 4, Winnipeg 0
2011-12 season:Tue Feb 7 2012at WpgWinnipeg 2, Toronto 1
2012-13 season:Thu Feb 7 2013at WpgToronto 3, Winnipeg 2
2012-13 season:Tue Mar 12 2013at WpgWinnipeg 5, Toronto 2
2012-13 season:Sat Mar 16 2013at TorWinnipeg 5, Toronto 4 (SO)