Mr. Greening, in the slot, with the puck” – Leafs & Sens recap

“What’s wrong with your teeth?”

There’s so little to talk about in regard to this hockey game and yet so much. I find the contrast between the Ottawa Senators and the Maple Leafs’ last opponent Buffalo fascinating. Both are perennial bubble teams with some stars left over from the era right after the first lockout. The teams, however, could not be more different in the way they deploy their lineup and their philosophy to fixing holes.

Toronto lost an absolute gut-wrencher. Playing from behind for much of the latter half of the game, the Leafs tied it up on a powerplay goal from Clarke MacArthur—2-2. After two missed nets on glorious plays set up by MacArthur with the score tied, Ottawa forced an offensive zone draw against the Senators late in the game. Toronto got the right personnel, but a bad rebound and Carl Gunnarsson failing to tie up Colin Greening allowed him to bat an elevated puck into the net with :24 seconds to go.

Again, there was a lot going on in this game, even though on the scoreboard it didn’t look like it.

-Scoring chances, like in the Leafs first game against the Senators, were few and far between. Both sides flubbed odd-man rushes and couldn’t convert mid-range blocked shots into rebounds. There were lots of dribblers taken from the perimeter on both sides. Ottawa, though, had an early edge in firing pucks at the net but just couldn’t seem to establish position inside. People have praised Randy Carlyle’s defensive system for being able to do this, but the flip side is that by bringing that extra forward back to block shots (what the heck was MacArthur doing right in front of Ben Scrivens on that play in the first period?) is that you can’t get the extra one forward to generate an odd-man rush. 

-In this sense, the Leafs have been lucky. Carlyle’s squad is opportunistic, plays much of the game in their own end, but take advantage of gaps in coverage which lead to 2-on-1s and the like. There was a long stretch in the second period where the teams were playing some fire-wagon hockey, lines were getting mis-matched and chances were being generated. I think the Leafs would be better suited to playing a speed game than a puck-possession game. They have a lot of quickness on all their lines, and sitting in their own end blocking 22 shots a night is going to lead to disastrous results.

-Even so, the scoring chances were 9-7 to the Leafs, thanks to their third period powerplay. They were 7-7 at even strength, and the 5-on-5 totals were identical in each period of the game. 2 in the first, 3 jn the second and 2 more in the third. The Leafs and Sens games we all watched as kids were displays of fire wagon hockey. Tonight, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Joffrey Lupul, Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner were all out, five to injury, one to a minor-league rehabilitation stint as a the result of an injury.

-The Leafs played way too much hockey in their own end and that will be the ultimate undoing. The Senators had 65 attempts on the Leafs’ net in this one. The Leafs had just 56 on the Sens. That means that the Leafs had approximately 46.2% of offensive zone time, or what we mean when we say “puck-possession” in these recaps. 

-So why does possession matter? Getting a lot of attempts means that you’re bending the odds to get good bounces. All five goals in the game came off some bounces: Mikhail Grabovski’s shot was deflected in by Ben Bishop’s pad; Mika Zibanejad tipped in a Colin Greening shot; Ben Scrivens knocked a rebound off Korbinian Holzer and then Erik Condra; Mike Kostka’s shot hit a defender and bounced directly down on the ice for Clarke MacArthur; Ben Scrivens kicked another rebound onto Colin Greening’s stick. Those bounces this season have been typically going the Leafs’ way, but didn’t tonight. The team played well enough to lose. Referees and goals with :24 seconds left aside, Toronto didn’t play well enough in the first 59:36 to exude any sympathy from me.

-Paul MacLean matched his checking line against Tyler Bozak. Carlyle in return was able to match his checking line against Kyle Turris. Nazem Kadri didn’t get the hard match, but his line was again the best for the Leafs’ tonight. That is, thanks to Clarke MacArthur, who had another ridiculous game. Of the nine scoring chances the Leafs took, MacArthur factored in on five of them: taking the shot on three and setting up two. He led the team with five shots on net. 

-MacArthur has been dynamite away from those tough match ups. While Nazem Kadri gets a lot of credit (and should) for much of his work this season, it’s really helped that he’s been able to play on a line with a real legitimate two-way NHLer like MacArthur. The Grabovski line is being hurt without him (they rarely win scoring chance battles) and Kadri has absolutely flourished with him. 

-Who did the Sens have as an analogue? I’m not sure. Their second line, which I have as Zibanejad, Greening and Condra, quietly all played a pretty good game. They combined for just five shots on net but didn’t give up any chances in their own end. They didn’t face the tough minutes match like Ottawa’s first line did and MacLean effectively sheltered their minutes: the three combined for just eight face-offs, five of which game in the offensive zone and just one in the defensive zone. 

-The Sens’ first line played much of the game against Grabovski (Turris took nine of his 19 draws against Grabovski) and, you can tell by the scoring chance data below, they got pretty well creamed. Turris looked vacant in his own end and Alfredsson looked equally bad in the offensive zone. He didn’t have a single shot on goal. Jakob Silfverberg looked to have some good jump and had a couple of chances late.

-The third Senators line with Zack Smith, Chris Neil and Dave Dzuirzynski is sneaky good. They played in a checking role against the Leafs’ top line and beat them quite decisively. I wasn’t counting controlled zone entries, but like the Grabovski line, they’re a checking unit that prefers to skate the puck in rather than chip it in and use their size to win battles. The Smith/Grabovski mould of a checking line is a little more effective since it can generate some offence, and the puck found itself on Dave Dzuirzynski’s stick quite often in dangerous places tonight. The problem is that he’s Dave Dzuirzynski, and both him and the puck remembered it as he botched a good chunk of his chances. 


-“It’s not very effective…” (s/t to Justin Gold-Smith)

-Carl Gunnarsson has not been 100% this season and he looked like it tonight. First goal:

Third goal:

Both instances, Gunnarsson is too slow to catch up to his man who establishes some good position, as Gunnarsson stands there and watches the puck. 

-Don Cherry at first intermission was extraordinarily unfair to Gunnarsson for not going after Patrick Kaleta after Kaleta ran Scrivens in the Buffalo game. In most cases, that play results in a penalty, which means Gunnarsson could move the puck ice to generate a scoring chance. Had Gunnarsson gone in for the fight, he would have been tagged with a double instigator for starting a fight with a visor. The Leafs would have been shorthanded for two extra minutes even if Kaleta had been called on the interference. If you believe in deterrence, there’s nothing stopping from Mike Brown going after Kaleta on the next shift. Immediate fights that result in penalties against are stupid plays. One of the key things you don’t want your defencemen to do is take stupid penalties.

-I thought Mike Kostka looked good, Gunnarsson’s two tough shifts aside. That pairing generated was on the ice for three scoring chances for and just two against. Staunch contrast to Cody Franson and Mark Fraser. Franson set up James van Riemsdyk on the powerplay, but a pretty quiet night offensively for that pairing who have been quite good this season. Fraser had a hilarious one-on-four rush in the first period that resulted in a long slapshot, and he also laid a good hit on Jim O’Brien later in the period.

-Ben Scrivens played well, but made two errors. That said, on a rush late in the game where O’Brien was coming in 2-on-1 with either Erik Condra or Colin Greening (play-by-play data says both were on the ice, but I forget which) the other winger skated into the middle and O’Brien flipped the puck on Scrivens to generate a rebound, trying to expose a weak point. Scrivens would have had a tough time handling that bouncing puck but had the presence of mind to control it into the corner. With 2:30 to go, I thought it was an excellent play that gave the Leafs a chance at preserving a point.

-It’s a pity the Leafs didn’t show up a little more. I thought Ben Bishop looked real vulnerable. He made some shaky pad saves in the first half of the game and completely whiffed on the Grabovski goal. The MacArthur one went five-hold as well. A couple of costly missed nets late in the game may have been the difference on the scoreboard, although there’s no way to do anything but admit Ottawa was the better team in this game. 

-Individual scoring chance differentials:

TARANNA Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Tyler Bozak 2 4 -2
James van Riemsdyk 1 4 -3
Phil Kessel 1 4 -3
Nazem Kadri 3 1 2
Clarke MacArthur 4 1 3
Leo Komarov 5 1 4
Mikhail Grabovski 2 2 0
Jay McClement 2 2 0
Nik Kulemin 1 2 -1
David Steckel 0 0 0
Mike Brown 0 0 0
Frazer McLaren 0 0 0
Dion Phaneuf 4 4 0
Korbinian Holzer 3 4 -1
Carl Gunnarsson 3 2 1
Mike Kostka 4 2 2
Cody Franson 0 1 -1
Mark Fraser 0 1 -1
VISITORS Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Kyle Turris 2 5 -3
Daniel Alfredsson 2 5 -3
Jakob Silfverberg 2 3 -1
Mika Zibanejad 3 0 3
Colin Greening 3 0 3
Erik Condra 2 0 2
Zack Smith 2 2 0
Chris Neil 2 2 0
Dave Dziurzynski 2 3 -1
Jim O’Brien 0 0 0
Kaspars Daugavins 0 1 -1
Derek Grant 1 0 1
Marc Methot 3 3 0
Eric Gryba 2 1 1
Chris Phillips 1 3 -2
Andrei Benoit 1 3 -2
Patrick Wiercioch 4 2 2
Sergei Gonchar 3 2 1

-Team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 2 (2) 3 (3) 4 (2) 9 (7)
Ottawa (EV) 2 (2) 3 (3) 2 (2) 7 (7)

-LeafsNation Three Stars

  1. Colin Greening
  2. Clarke MacArthur
  3. Erik Condra

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  • Quasijr

    Don’t you think the lack leaf scoring chances tonight was largely the result of Orr not being in the line up. After hearing Cherry mention that Rangers are struggling without Prust it does make sense. The rangers are not energetic nor alive this season say compared to the Habs who Prust now plays for. With Prust in the line up for the Habs, the team is more confident and are more aggressive which shows up in scoring chances and goals.

  • Quasijr

    By your “scoring” chance method it looks like and Kessel (and JVR) had terrible games and were worse players on leafs tonight.

    Is this correct interpretation? I ask because you like to point out that Orr makes the team worse because he is often out chanced. But this time you gloss over Kessel performance in the game.

  • By your “scoring” chance method it looks like and Kessel (and JVR) had terrible games and were worse players on leafs tonight.

    Is this correct interpretation? I ask because you like to point out that Orr makes the team worse because he is often out chanced. But this time you gloss over Kessel performance in the game.

    • Because Colton Orr is out-chanced consistently. Phil Kessel comes out ahead most nights. Being a negative is an anomaly.

      Genuinely curious: Would you think a team of Colton Orrs or a team of Phil Kessels be higher in the standings?

  • Quasijr

    By my count – MacArthur has been the best Leaf on the ice for three games in a row.. he’s playing great hockey right now.

    Tough one to swallow last night.

    Paul MacLean is a genius.

  • Not at all. But I have never read a summary that has said had Kessel a bad game. That is, during his slump you mentioned his scoring chances were suggesting things would improve and there was no need to be concerned.

    Last night’s game is the opposite. That is, Kessel has a poor game measured by scoring chances (at least if I objectively look at the data). I’m not saying Kessel is “bad” at hockey like Orr is. That would be silly. And yes this is one game so Kessel will most likley go back to his normal ways of outchancing the competition in the long run.

    But that by scoring chance he was handily outworked by the senators in this one game. I think the point is there seems to be a trepidation to even mention that Kessel had a poor game. Did he measured by scoring chances – I think so?

  • I don’t think any Leaf last night other than MacArthur was particularly good. There was a lot more going on here than “Kessel had a bad game”.

    I’ve noted in the past where Kessel has had bad games–notably against Winnipeg–but mostly I don’t mention he has bad games because he doesn’t often have them.