Jake Gardiner was on the ice for 62 even strength goals against last season, and Lord help us if we don’t go through each and every one to try and pin the blame on somebody else.
I’ve been planning this project for a while now, but now that Michal Roszival has decided to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s a tinge more urgent. The Toronto Maple Leafs still have one defenceman that I consider to be good enough to be in an NHL top four, but Gardiner and Carl Gunnarsson both have potential.
Gardiner’s first NHL season was a bit of a paradox. He played simultaneously the easiest minutes on the Maple Leafs defence—a 56% offensive zone start rate and a -0.328 Corsi Rel QoC—and the toughest, playing alongside Luke Schenn more than any other Toronto player did.
Now, Schenn finds himself in Philadelphia. Gardiner is back in Toronto, presumably on the second-pairing with Mike Komisarek. Coincidentally, that’s who Gardiner is paired with for the first goal he was on the ice for.
Gardiner’s “role” if you will, is to protect the left side of the scoring area. This is only the second game of his career, so you can forgive him for that, and also for how slow Toronto’s forecheck set up on two occasions, giving Jason Spezza, the division’s primary offensive talent, a boatload of time to set up.
Komisarek needs to come in and help out after Gardiner gets spun all kinds of backwards. Gardiner allows a pretty sizeable gap for Colin Greening who gains entry off a pass. Greening has lots of space to dump it back to Sergei Gonchar. Komisarek tries to cover the extra man. Not being an Xs and Os guy, I’m not sure if Gardiner here is supposed to read that and stick on Greening or if Komisarek is supposed to provide ample support. Anyway, both players go for Gonchar, leaving Greening wide open in front.
Here’s Goal No. 2. Yes, we will be doing 62 of these over the next couple of weeks, so strap in. This comes right at the end of a Leafs powerplay, and Gardiner is on with Gunnarsson, another leftie:
This one isn’t a scoring chance, so we can’t really blame the defence for it. It took a lucky hop off of Travis Moen and in.
Also, I’m not exactly sure what my eventual goal with this project is. Whether there’s some data to mine or not, it’ll be interesting to see whether Gardiner is at fault for much of what happens in his own zone at even strength.
These next two are from the same game. First up is a Scott Hartnell snap shot from the slot:
That shot will beat Leafs goaltending every single time. Gardiner is sort of caught watching the play in the corner and is on his heels for an instant as Hartnell gets to his spot. Joffrey Lupul is also at fault for either not alerting Gardiner to the extra man coming in, or because he doesn’t even apply the resistance of a turnstile. Hartnell goes in unchecked, and the pass from Claude Giroux is pretty solid.
This is a breakaway feed for one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of hockey. John-Michael Liles shares the ice here, and he’s the guy who initially let Jaromir Jagr free:
A number of different things are going on here. Liles goes in for the most ill-advised forecheck ever, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak fail to provide the appropriate support, and the other guy on the ice is Lupul. Hartnell is in the corner, has Jagr wide on the opposite side, while Gardiner, who I guess didn’t realize that Liles had gone for a skate, is protecting the near-side boards instead of doing what I would do, which is skating as hard as I can to the bench to avoid the “minus” rating and any record that I participated in this cluster**** of a defensive play.
For future reference, everybody on this shift, Jaromir Jagr has scored 665 career NHL goals, even though he took three years off. Maybe look for him next time?
This one is 4-on-4, and the first of many goals in this package where Luke Schenn is also on the ice:
So Marian Gaborik, one of the prime offensive players in the game, has an awful lot of space to move. Matthew Lombardi does an admirable job at keeping him to the outside as Gardiner does an acceptable job on his man Artem Anisimov in front. Schenn is a step too slow to close the gap, but no harm no foul as Jonas Gustavsson makes a good kick save, and then…
…ugh. Gardiner has a hand in giving up a scoring chance on this play, but not on the goal.
When looking up this last one, I saw “OTT #23 DAUGAVINS(1), Wrist, Off. Zone, 51 ft.” on the play-by-play sheet. I think I know what happens here, because Gustavsson was in net:
I guess my question to you, if who is primarily at fault on most of these goals? Without doing the same thing for every Leafs defenceman, it looks unfair to single out Gardiner like this, but I do want a general idea of whether his transgressions are due to him or his teammates. It should become more clear the longer we go into this series and find more goals where Schenn also picks up a minus.