Auston Matthews has been ruled out for Thursday’s game in Minnesota. That and more in the Wednesday links.
Maple Leafs Practice: Mike Babcock – December 13 (MapleLeafs.com)
Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Wednesday, discussing the decision to scrimmage outdoors and the injury status of Auston Matthews.
On the injury situations and the word on Auston Matthews:
Borgman is here and Auston is here. We sent Sosh home. Everyone is day-to-day. What that means I don’t know for sure. I just know that he didn’t skate today, so that means you’re not playing tomorrow.
What I’ve learned over time: I used to ask players questions, but what it is is perceived by pressure by the coach. Especially anything that lingers, if that makes any sense. That’s not my job to put pressure on them. When they’re ready to come… we’ve got a real good medical staff. The other thing is it prevents the coach from getting in his own way. When you’re putting pressure on a guy and he comes back and gets injured – you see it all the time; reoccurring injuries – it makes no sense. You’re better, especially in a situation like we are, to buy a little time.
The other thing about it is, no matter who is away, you’ve got to find a way to win games. That’s just it. Suck it up, play right, find a way to win.
On the jam-packed schedule:
If you look at the schedule, it can [look daunting]. That’s why you don’t. You’ve got to win today and everything is OK. That’s what I try to do. I really do. I just try not to do that at all. When you look at some points in the schedule… if you had looked at our last 20 games last year, you’d say, “No chance could we win 14 games.” But that’s why you don’t worry about that. We’re here today. You’re here today. Do a good job today, get up, and do it again tomorrow.
Elliotte Friedman joined Laughlin & O’Sullivan on the Power Play (Sirius XM)
Elliotte Friedman discussed if the Leafs can sustain their success form the start of the season on the Power Play.
I think they’re all in this year. I don’t think there is any doubt about that.
It’s interesting. They’ve been lobotomized a little bit. I kind of miss the old run-and-gun Maple Leafs who trade chances, but there is no question since they went on that west coast swing and really got destroyed that they’ve changed the way they play. They can win ugly. They can win pretty. They’ve still got a lot of talent, but they’ve found different ways to come at you.
I think it’s real instructive that they’ve got such a good record without Auston Matthews. That doesn’t mean they don’t need him – he’s a phenomenal player. But they can beat you with their skill and they’re learning how to beat you playing different ways – grinding at you, or dumping the puck, or whatever.
I think they’re all in. I think they’re all in the next two years. I think if there are big pieces out there that they think they can get their hands on, they’re going to try for them.
Kelly: Leafs have been successful after changing offensive system (TSN1050)
Statistical analyst for TSN and the NHL Network Mike Kelly joined Leafs Lunch to discuss the level of concern over the Leafs‘ shots against numbers.
You don’t keep up .940-type save percentages over the course of a season. Teams and players and goaltenders get on hot streaks over the course of the season. The Maple Leafs goaltenders have been great. Can they sustain a Dominik Hasek-syle save percentage? Of course not. But at the same time, he’s a really good goalie and he’s playing really well.
Defensively, I know the Maple Leafs have been giving up a lot of shots and that can be a concern. In an ideal world, you don’t want to do that. More than that, I really pay attention to the quality of the shots that they’re allowing. If you get into shots from the top of the circle, statistically, you’re looking at a less-than-three-percent chance of that shot going in. For me, I wouldn’t really care too much if you’re team is allowing a bunch of shots from the top of the circle and the point because they’re probably not going to go in anyway.
You look at the Maple Leafs – yes, they’re allowing a tonne of shots, but they’re still not allowing a tonne from what I would call the most high-danger area on the ice inside the slot, where about 50% of the goals are scored in the NHL. In the last four games, they rank tenth in the league as far as the fewest shots from there. And they’re creating more opportunities from there than they’re allowing.
In a nutshell, yes, they can tighten up defensively and they are giving up a lot more shots than they should be and have been. But at the same time, part of the reason that they’re still winning is goaltending #1 – it’s been spectacular – but they’re not allowing an inordinate amount of these quality opportunities.
On Corsi and shot quality:
You talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins having a bad Corsi and winning the Stanley Cup. Last year, they led the league in the amount of shots they get from the center-slot area. They led the league in that area the year before and won the Stanley Cup both years. If you’re going to use shot metrics or shot attempt metrics of any kind, why not use quality shot metrics in that?
It’s going to be a three-step situation with Corsi. Step 1 is it comes out and it’s, “Hey, this is a spectacular tool to evaluate.” I think we’re in Step 2 right now, which is, “There is some better information out there, but it still has a lot of value.” Step 3, once tracking data becomes publicly available et cetera, will be, “Corsi was the best we had at the time, but now we know there is a lot of better ways to measure the game.”
Good Show’s Leafs Hour: Todd Hlushko & Zach Hyman (Fan 590)
Zach Hyman joined Todd Hlushko on Sportsnet 590 on Wednesday.
A lot of the games, our goalies have been bailing us out. They’re playing great and that’s a reason why we have a bunch of these wins. We have to get back to playing in the offensive zone more. We’ve been playing in our zone too much. It’s great that we can check the other team, but we’ve got to start creating more chances and being more of a threat in the other zone. Any time you get wins, it’s a good thing. If you can get wins when you’re not playing at your best, that’s when you can be a great team. We’ve just got to get back to doing what we do best and it’ll all sort itself out.
NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs and Bruins are big risers (Yahoo!)
The Maple Leafs rise to number three in Puck Daddy’s power rankings. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets are the two teams ahead of them. The Senators have fallen all the way down to 30 of 31 teams.
Wild’s Devan Dubnyk: Doubtful against Maple Leafs (CBS)
Dubnyk is undergoing an MRI on Wednesday to evaluate a lower-body injury that is expected to knock him out of the lineup for tomorrow’s game. The team is expected to call up Niklas Svedberg from Iowa while Alex Stalock will likely get the start in goal.
Maple Leafs trending wrong direction (TorStar)
The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran points out that the the Leafs were outpossessed by Edmonton (61-39 per cent), Pittsburgh (57-43 per cent), and Calgary (52-48 per cent). The Leafs were outshot in all three games as well, 125-77.
Outdoor practice in Minnesota? Maple Leafs warmed to the idea (The Sun)
“That was a blast,” Jake Gardiner said. “I think my Dad was the most excited guy out there. With the schedule right now being five in seven nights, this gets us re-energized.”