Scrivens stops 21, Leafs top Canadiens 2-1 in opener

Toronto won its season opener 2-1 on the road in Montreal, with goals coming from Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri. Montreal was without one of its best players on offence and defence, PK Subban, and looked flat to start the season. Randy Carlyle’s defensive system wasn’t a good matchup for the rusty Habs, who were forced to the perimeter for much of the game and didn’t mount an attack until the third period, when it was too late to come back.

So the Leafs improve to 1-0, again, on a snowy Saturday night in Montreal. How perfect is that? Recap below.

A brief note about the scoring chances right now: An application at will allow me in a week or so to input the data I have, and the result will be a list of all the scoring chances during the game, the time, the strength, and which players were on the ice for each team. There’s also a lot of other cool stats over there I’ll be able to link to and they’re a big part in my analysis. They have a lot of information about match ups and puck possession.

What I can do now, as I like to do, if take individual scoring chance counts. I count the players directly involved in the chance offensively as an attempt to gauge offensive play (you’ll see what I do with the data a bit later) throughout the game. I can give you team totals, as well. Montreal had a slight possession edge, attempting 48 shots to Toronto’s 43, but much of that was a result of score effects, which is that a team trailing later in the game will usually fire most of the shots on goal in desperation. The Maple Leafs had a slight scoring chance advantage here, 12-11. 

A scoring chance is defined as a “clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area” at this post at Copper and Blue. Additionally, I credit a “chance set up” to a player who made a clear pass into a scoring zone for a player who takes a shot as a direct result of the pass.

In score-close situations, Toronto had a 6-2 advantage. This is positive, although Montreal looked terrible.

Randy Carlyle, who likes his line match ups, seemed okay with a “power on power” game. Phil Kessel’s line saw lots of time against Montreal’s top unit of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty. Judging by the scoring chance split between the two lines, I’d say that the Leafs line won out on that matchup. 

I liked how Carlyle used his lines. He used his fourth line sparingly, gave some tough situations to the Nazem Kadri unit with Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk, including having them on the ice as Montreal pulled their goaltender. They made the Habs work for their zone entries, and I like how that line has a bit of a mean edge to them. They played very close to Carey Price on offence and jammed the net on a couple of occasions.

On Nazem Kadri’s goal, I loved the way he started out at the point and then moved through the zone, reading Phil Kessel’s eyes and accepting the pass, then out-waited the goalie. There will be a great GIF, hopefully, isolating Kadri on that play. 

The second goal was a result of a good bounce, and a puck landing on Tyler Bozak’s stick in a good spot on the ice. Not totally his doing, but he played a very passable game tonight.

A note about Randy Carlyle’s structure: the Habs had seven even strength scoring chances. One came against the Bozak line, one came against the Grabovski line, and the other five were against a hodgepodge of scattered forwards and defencemen that were on the ice as the result of an icing call and the Leafs couldn’t change.

Image break. From Commander Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station, high above the City of Montreal tonight:

One of the major themes with the Toronto Marlies this season was the aggressive way Dallas Eakins would activate his defence and get them involved in the offensive zone. There wasn’t much of this for the Maple Leafs, although it was a season debut on the road and both teams were shaking off a lot of rust. Dion Phaneuf played a very conservative game, and the only player I had marked down as contributing to a scoring chance was John-Michael Liles, midway through the first period.

The Leafs defence was doing their job getting the pucks down low. The Habs tried, and failed, to generate offence from the point by throwing the puck in the general area of the net. It was mostly ineffective, though resulted in the Habs’ only goal thanks to Jay McClement forgetting how to block shots.

Ben Scrivens was good, although he looked really unconfident, probably a result of his unorthodox style. He stopped 21 shots and was first star, but the Canadiens missed the net on a lot of their A-chances. They missed the net four times from the scoring chance zone, Toronto only missed one. I thought Carey Price had a much better game than Scrivens, but the Leafs as a whole played much, much better in front of them. 

I liked Mike Kostka tonight as well in his first game. I’d need to check his usage stats, and it seemed like he was generally being used primarily in offensive situations, but he got that last shift of the game, down by one with a faceoff in his own end. If he can be a fit on the team, that solves one of Toronto’s problems. I did not like how he iced that puck with 7 seconds to go, however, but he had a good game all around and saw 17 minutes of even strength ice time.

Although I’m not sure if Montreal’s offensive ineptitude was due to Carlyle’s structure or because Montreal was missing a very key piece in P.K. Subban and don’t have a very good hockey team.

Here’s the individual scoring chance breakdown. First Toronto’s:

  Chances Taken Set Up Total
Bozak 2 1 3
Kadri 2   2
Kessel 2   2
Lupul 2   2
Grabovski 1 1 2
Komarov 1 1 2
Liles 1   1
MacArthur 1    

And Montreal’s:

  Chances Taken Set Up Total
Cole 2   2
Plekanec 2   2
Armstrong 1   1
Bouillion 1   1
Desharnais 1   1
Gionta 1   1
Gorges 1   1
Bourque   1 1
Emelin   1 1
Pacioretty   1 1
Prust   1 1

And the team breakdown. Even strength numbers in parentheses:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
TOR (EV) 6 (4) 3 (2) 3 (3) 12 (9)
MTL (EV) 1 (0) 5 (3) 5 (4) 11 (7)

Anything you noticed? Use the comment box.

Leafs Nation Three Stars

  1. Nazem Kadri
  2. Ben Scrivens
  3. Carey Price

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  • kary

    Great game by the buds. Can I suggest next time you also add areas for the leafs to improve or the goat for the night. I will hold judgement on this team until we face the Bruins. That will be the test.

    Now for me that one goal given up where Phaneuf was
    – out of position (on the wrong side of ice)
    – blocking his other defensive partner from covering his man and
    – then doing a terrible job preventing the scoring chance.

    Now Kuli did a poor job clearing the puck and Scriven probably mishandled the to start with. But we don’t need to make excuses for good defenseman, rather they find ways to make their team mates on the ice look good. Phaneuf is the goat for night.