It was one of the bigger question marks entering the new Leafs season: Who is going to shut down the opposition’s top lines? So far there has been no viable answer.
Zetterberg and his line ripped the Leafs apart in the back to back over the weekend. Crosby’s line had its way with the Leafs the Saturday before last. Rick Nash was able to pot one before leaving the game to attend the birth of his baby the following Sunday. Six games in, the Leafs sit bottom 10 with a 3.17 goals against per game.
Sounds like Leafs may start using Santorelli unit versus top lines.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) October 20, 2014
Line 3 has been the Leafs‘ best possession line by the numbers in the first six games of the season and Komarov has had some success in the faceoff circle, so this would make sense as an experiment (apparently it was the gameplan on Saturday, but the Wings had last change and Babcock could do as he pleased). Steve Spott alluded on the radio to possibly moving Winnik opposite Komarov on Santorelli’s line to create a shutdown trio if push comes to shove; a scenario similar to when Grabovski and Kulemin were overloaded with heavy defensive zone starts versus top competition in the lockout year in order to compensate for a lack of defensive trustworthiness across the rest of the lineup.
In that situation, you’re hoping that, best case, the shutdown line treads water possession and production wise while freeing up the top 6 to produce with easier matchups and more offensive zone starts. Problem is, combined with a lack of a fourth line, that really puts extra onus on the top two lines to combine for the three goals you need to win most games. There would have to be a much-better effort towards building a fourth line that can chip in offensively here and there and generate some offensive zone time (there should be either way, really). If they were to remove Winnik from line 2 and leave line 1 in tact, we’re back to two lines that mostly live and die by the rush at 5v5, one line that is simply hoping to survive, and no line four in any meaningful sense — at least based on how the ice time has been allocated so far. That’s not necessarily the recipe for a good possession team. The Leafs would also be moving Clarkson out of the only situation he’s played half-decently in, presumably.
It will be an interesting situation to monitor in the next few weeks. This is where coaches are supposed to be earning their money.
– MLHS now has an advanced stats feed on the Leafs updating daily here, conveniently located under the “stats” link in the menu bar for future reference.
– Anthony’s Monday Notebook details how he’ll be tracking zone exits and entries for and against this season before his weekly notes, quotes and 5 Things.
– Steve Spott joined TSN 1050 for an informative interview about the team’s thinking behind a lot of things in the early season.
– Brandon Kozun will be out at least 6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. High ankle sprains are brutal. Get well soon.
– Maple Leafs coach has reluctant praise for Leaf PKers. Carlyle cautions its early but has praise for Winnik and Komarov.
– Along the same lines is Jonas Siegel’s piece on early promise of the Leafs PK.
– Check out where some of the Leafs’ offensive players stand in ‘garbage’ and ‘total’ goals, actual versus expected.
– Michael Langlois looks at some positives and some negatives from the first six games over at VLM.