Scribbles shuts out Sens: Leafs win 3-0 on Hockey Night

Photo via Abelimages and NHLInteractive

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat a provincial rival 3-0 on a Saturday night. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the opposing team, tonight the Ottawa Senators, had to dress two players who have sweater numbers in the 60s and three with sweater numbers in the 50s.

Ben Scrivens though, played very well in his first career shutout, despite the fact that the majority of the Senators’ shots came were long-range or mid-range attempts from poor angles. He looked good positionally, but mostly the defence was good around him and the Sens didn’t get a lot of second chances. Or first chances.

Frazer McLaren’s ass, Tyler Bozak’s skate and John-Michael Liles from 131 feet out are your goal scorers in this one. 

-Starting with scoring chances, since the definitions are contentious and the conclusions I draw from them are controversial. Toronto escaped a game where they actually got out-chanced: a frightfully slow pace, there was a single scoring chance in the first period and the total number of quality shot attempts was 18. 10-8 for the Senators, presumably after Randy Carlyle tried to tighten things up after a defensively-inept game against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Leafs’ last outing, where the team surrendered 20 scoring chances and 15 at even strength.

-The Senators did get the advantage of specialty teams plays. At five-on-five, where the bulk of my analysis is done, it was 7-7. The Leafs recovered from a 7-3 deficit after a strong third period where they went 4-0. The best line Toronto had was the first, on the ice together for five scoring chances combined, taking advantage of a weak Senators’ lineup with three players playing in their first game. The worst? Nazem Kadri-Colton Orr-Clarke MacArthur: all of them were minus-3 in scoring chance differential through this game. Orr played 12:51 in this game, easily the highest total of his career in Toronto. He recorded no shot attempts. 

-For a brief second, Kadri and MacArthur found themselves on the first line where they belonged, as the Leafs earned an odd-man rush in the middle of a line change. It was a glorious moment, one that would have surely resulted in a goal if MacArthur had not made an extra pass. Both Kadri and MacArthur are excellent hockey players who certainly do not benefit from playing shorthanded much of the game.

-Hey, the fourth line, made up of Jay McClement, Frazer McLaren and Mike Brown scored a goal tonight! This is excellent coaching and an indication that Randy Carlyle should dress three thugs each game, correct? Well, probably not. Their goal tonight was the product of good puck-possession on that line’s third good shift of the season, by my count. Too many times does that line otherwise have that happen against them at the other end, and I will continue to point at McLaren’s, Brown’s and Orr’s, low Corsi rates this season. All four regular fourth liners get out-shot by more than twenty shots per 60 minutes when they are on the ice.

-I’ll point to a sequence late in the third period. Up by two, Carlyle sent out his fourth line for an offensive zone face-off with seven minutes to go in the game. Zack Smith, Chris Neil and Kaspars Daugevins got control of the puck and moved it up ice, and just 11 seconds later, the Leafs faced a defensive zone face-off. Offensive zone face-offs are better to have than defensive zone face-offs and as a result of that, Tyler Bozak had to come out and take one of his seven face-offs in the defensive end on the night. 

-So it’s always hard to see Jay McClement back there. McClement is a more than capable defensive centreman, but he’s been put in hilarious situations this year. He either plays with two thugs on his wing, or playing real tough defensive assignments with Mikhail Grabovski on the second line. It’s a living miracle that he’s a +4 this season, and he was inches away from being a +5 if he scored on that breakaway at the end of the game. 

-Say, how good was Grabovski in this one? You may not have noticed Jim Hughson calling Mika Zibanejad’s or Daniel Alfredsson’s name being called much. Either that was because you muted the television, or because Grabovski was spectacularly effective. Carlyle ran a hard match against the Sens’ top two offensive players with Grabovski, and the Leafs’ second line absolutely crushed them at even strength, not just shutting them down but by earning a chance themselves at a point. 

-I still like MacArthur better on that line with Grabovski and Nik Kulemin, but I’ll confess I prefer MacArthur to James van Riemsdyk on the first line, and I prefer MacArthur to Orr or McClement or Matt Frattin on the Leafs’ third line. He’s a very versatile player, something that I think is past Leo Komarov’s ceiling. That said, the second line was very good. 

-Also good, the first pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Korbinian Holzer. Phaneuf played 23:53 and led the team with 17:36 at even strength. He was a +2 in scoring chance differential and played almost exclusively against Alfredsson or Kyle Turris. The top two Ottawa lines did not record a single scoring chance when together in this game. Granted, they were without their two best offensive players in Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, but it was a fine defensive performance.

-That said, it was also dreadfully boring, but when the team hasn’t been a winning team in quite some time, I guess you take your victories the way you can earn them. Here are the individual scoring chances:

TARANNA Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Tyler Bozak 5 4 1
James van Riemsdyk 5 4 1
Phil Kessel 6 4 2
Mikhail Grabovski 2 0 2
Nik Kulemin 1 0 1
Leo Komarov 1 0 1
Nazem Kadri 0 3 -3
Clarke MacArthur 0 3 -3
Colton Orr 0 3 -3
Jay McClement 1 0 1
Mike Brown 0 0 0
Frazer McLaren 0 0 0
Dion Phaneuf 3 1 2
Korbinian Holzer 2 0 2
John-Michael Liles 1 2 -1
Mike Kostka 2 3 -1
Cody Franson 4 4 0
Mark Fraser 2 4 -2
KANATA Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Kyle Turris 1 4 -3
Erik Condra 1 2 -1
Jakob Silfverberg 0 4 -4
Stephane da Costa 3 3 0
Daniel Alfredsson 1 3 -2
Mika Zibanejad 0 2 -2
Zack Smith 5 0 5
Kaspars Daugevins 5 0 5
Chris Neil 4 0 4
Jim O’Brien 0 2 -2
Derek Grant 1 0 1
Dave Dziurzynski 0 1 -1
Mike Lundin 2 3 -1
Sergei Gonchar 2 6 -4
Chris Phillips 2 1 1
Eric Gryba 4 2 2
Marc Method 2 0 2
Andre Benoit 2 2 0

-And by team:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Ottawa (EV) 1 (1) 7 (6) 2 (0) 10 (7)
Toronto (EV) 0 (0) 3 (3) 5 (4) 8 (7)

-LeafsNation Three Stars:

  1. Ben Scrivens
  2. Dion Phaneuf
  3. Phil Kessel
  • kobegeee

    It must pain you so much that the fourth line is playing well for Carlyle on the leafs. No one on the Senators wanted to fight Orr and Mclaren and so they stepped up by contributing the game winning goal tonight and at big minutes shutting down the senators.

  • kobegeee

    I realize you like to rag on the 4th liners for their Corsi numbers – but would i be right in assuming that most NHL 4th lines have similar numbers(below average)?? Granted – it would be nice to have a team full of top 6 forwards and top 4 dman.. but that’s not really realisitic – is it?

    … and I’m not one of those “Orr is the saviour” type of guys. But sheesh.. give some credit where credit is due once in a while. Over the last 5/6 games the “thugs” have been contributing.. which in my opinion – is about as much as you can ask for in a 4th line.

    I think you’re a great hockey writer Cam.. but this whole “Ya.. the Leafs won – but this is why they should have lost” thing is getting pretty old.

  • kobegeee

    It must be a weird feeling making it to the NHL only to be called a thug, goon or useless. You must be like “Wait a second – didn’t I make it?”.

    We’re “all” guilty of doing it – but it makes you wonder if this is partly the reason these type of players tend to have a harder time off the ice.

    • kobegeee

      There is a lot of great info in his articles, but yeah, Cam is a thoroughly unlikable writer.

      I mean great, he thinks Orr shouldn’t be on the ice, but do I really have to read name calling and snide remarks on a daily basis. It’s grating to say the least.

  • I saw Frazer McLaren play in the WHL in 2007. Played for Portland in the Kamloops Blazers’ home opener against the Winterhawks.

    He fought very early in the game, took a couple of stupid penalties, and did score a goal, but despite that it was clear he wasn’t on the team because he could play. He got a whole lot of minutes—Portland loved giving out minutes to guys who could fight. They didn’t draft well, and overvalued character guys like McLaren who scored the occasional goal and threw themselves at everybody.

    The Winterhawks went 17-52-3 that season, and a few years later they had a management overhaul. Now they’re a team that’s excellent at drafting Europeans, they’re fantastic at developing home-grown talent and half their roster is made up of players who are NHL draft picks or will be NHL draft picks. They’re also the top team in the country and will very likely be playing in their third consecutive WHL Championship series this season.

    The point I’m trying to make is that a guy like McLaren won’t instantaneously make a team better or worse. The point I make when I talk about the fourth line as if it isn’t anything other than the best thing that’s happened to the Leafs since Tie Domi is that the team is giving too many minutes to players who can’t help the team in any tangible way. I don’t have any moral qualm about calling McLaren a “thug” or a “goon” because if that label weren’t attached to him, he wouldn’t be in the NHL.

    • kobegeee

      If it were JUST calling them “goon” or “thug” fine. It’s the pervasive attitude of superiority that grinds on peoples nerves. The feeling that you think you’re “better” than everyone else, just because you spend you life counting scoring chances is unbearably annoying.

      I’ll continue to read your articles, as I will anything that increases my knowlegdge base about the game. Unfortunately unlike many of the other sites out there I won’t enjoy my time doing it.

    • kobegeee

      No one is suggesting a team full of McLaren’s.. or even a full line. But I think you need one of them. Look at all the NHL rosters.. seldomly do they not include atleast one guy who plays this type of role.

      … even your precious Portland Winterhawks deploy De Champlain – him of the 141 PIM in 49 games.

      I don’t mind the 4th line getting the gears for a game when they’re pinned in their own zone and taking dumb penalties.. that’s more than fair. But when they score the winning goal, get a couple huge shot blocks and keep things safe at the end of a 3-0 game – then give credit where credit is due. What more are you asking of an NHL 4th line??

      To me – trying to convince fans how bad a team is… is just as ridiculous as trying to convince fans how good a team is. There has to be a happy medium there somewhere.

      • Again, I wasn’t suggesting McLaren makes a team good or bad. I’m just saying McLaren, like most tough guys, is rarely going to be a positive.

        You could put him on the waiver wire tomorrow and no commentator will think “gee, the Leafs are giving up a good one here” and fans would hardly bat an eye.

        The Winterhawks do have de Champlain. He doesn’t play on the powerplay or kill penalties. He isn’t put in a situation to score 20 goals a season like McLaren was. The Winterhawks have de Champlain because every team has a player like de Champlain. Eventually those players will stop being on hockey teams because there are too many good young players available to waste a roster spot on a player who can’t kill penalties or play on the powerplay effectively, or a player that needs to start 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone to not spend all the time he spends on the ice hemmed in his own end.

  • Quasijr

    This game was like watching paint dry very boring, but its games like this against under maned rivals that we have to win. I, like Cam am not a Orr fan, I prefer Brown over him due to his skating skills. That being said that good 4th line players inforcer/defensive players are vey hard to find. Not a lot of Probert, McSorely ( I know he’s defence) type players, who can score fight, play defence & play smart hockey. Guys like this shouldn’t be classed in the goon squad same as Orr or McLaren.

  • Quasijr

    I don’t mind the enforcers playing. Last night they kept Chris Neil and the sens from running leaf players. They didn’t stop it completely but later in the game, the hits by senators were less frequent and less forceful.

    This real world impact, is what advanced stats will never capture. Not only does it prevent injuries but they do afford the leaf stars more room on the ice and respect. Of course, their are always player that don’t respect the code (Kaleta etc) so enforcers can’t “intimidate everyone”. Also, come play off time if the leafs make it, the effect of the fourth line will be better known as the physical intensity steps up.

    Also Kudos for the fourth line guys stepping up offensively with the continued struggles of Kessel.

  • Quasijr

    Why do I read these post-game blogs every day, fully knowing that regardless of how the Leafs play I am basically going to have to read through Cam ragging on the team for 95% of the article?

    Yes, it wasn’t a spectacular game, but there are always plenty more positives that should be talked about.

    Can we get another post-game writer please?

  • Quasijr

    I don’t agree with most of the above commentors. Guys like McLaren and Orr are complete plugs. Playing Orr for 12 minutes with Kadri and Macarthur is embarrassing.

    The Leafs did not look great tonight but they managed to eek out a win over Binghamton.

    I don’t get that Cam thinks he’s superior than anyone in his writing. Sounds like some people have an axe to grind with him.

  • I’m not one of those with an axe to grind.. as I’ve said multiple times on this site I respect Cam as a writer and think he knows his stuff.

    And I don’t want to be seen as one of those guys who thinks the 4th line is the reason the Leafs 5 of 6. Ofcourse they’re not. But they’re doing the job every other 4th line does.. they shouldn’t be expected to play on the PP or PK.

    You may disagree with these type of players having a role in the game at all.. and I’m not arguing that. Would I prefer to see skill over fights and scrums??? Definitely. But apparently every GM in the NHL disagrees with me (and you). A player can only be asked to do the job he’s been hired to do.. and in this case they have.

    Call them what you want – but they have a role in todays NHL whether we agree with it or not.

  • What puzzles me is that people come here and read this blog, and then complain about the writing style. Simple solution is, if you don’t like the writer, don’t come here and read the article. Simple!

    Good stuff Cam!

    • Can’t speak for others, but I like much of the content, as I mentioned it’s more style that grates. Not sure why I have to not come here because I complain a little about his “style” of writing.

      Surely a writer who makes a living giving opinions,(often critical ones) should be able to stand a little critiquing himself, no?

  • Interesting that Kadri said in a post-game interview that with Orr on his line, no one was yapping at him as they (apparently) usually do and he felt he could run around a bit more. So maybe there is a feeling on the ice (if not on the corsi sheet) that these guys make a difference. If the players think it makes a difference, it makes a difference. I’m willing to give players the benefit of the doubt on that, though why Orr, MacLaren, Brown and Fraser are all needed, I don’t know.

    On the whole, it’s an arms race kind of thing (sorry to use a military metaphor): as soon as a few teams drop the enforcer, that role will go away. Not much chance of that happening though.