Who are these Montreal Canadiens the Leafs are playing tonight? They’ve played two games so far this season, both at le Centre Bell, and the Leafs decisively won both games, the first 2-1 and the second 6-0. The first game was less close than it appears based on scoring chances data, and Montreal had a very poor showing.
Le Club Hockey has played just seven road games this season and have performed well in them, but haven’t necessarily played well. Absent a dominant performance against the Ottawa Senators earlier this week, they were generally on the losing end, puck-possession wise, in road games. Was that just a beast of small samples and is their 2-1 win over the Senators on Monday more indicative of a better, tough, road Habs team? We’ll find out tonight…
Montreal made a trade yesterday, a darn good one from their end. They relieved themselves of Erik Cole’s mid-length, expensive contract on a 34-year old Cole and acquired Michael Ryder, who is just as good, younger, and on a deal that expires this year allowing the Habs to get some more talent in the summer. It wasn’t a shrewd move by any means since it was an obvious one to make, but the Habs are not a team many people would expect to contend in the Eastern Conference this season. Now they’re a little bit better positioned to win next season.
Toronto have won seven of their last nine games but are spending too much time with the puck in their own zone. James Reimer is back tonight, but will sit on the bench in favour of Ben Scrivens, who played extremely well during Reimer’s absence. On the season he has eight quality starts in 11 tries and a .939 even strength save percentage. Most of that is some good luck over a small sample, probably unfairly credited to Randy Carlyle’s system.
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM EST
Radio: TSN Radio 1050
|Fenwick Close||52.67% (7th)||45.52% (26th)|
|5v5 GF/GA Ratio||1.45 (2nd)||1.26 (7th)|
|Team Shooting %||8.90%||9.70%|
|Team Save %||0.94||0.938|
|PP Success||18.9% (11th)||16.7% (18th)|
|5v4 GF/60||5.5 (15th)||5.4 (16th)|
|5v4 SF/60||49.1 (13th)||48.6 (14th)|
|PK Success||82.7% (14th)||82.6% (15th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.0 (15th)||5.8 (14th)|
|4v5 SA/60||41.0 (4th)||43.5 (8th)|
Look at the numbers and you see two pretty equal teams. Both have some high shooting and save rates driving their success at even strength. Both have middle-range special teams’ efficiency but are both very good at shot suppression on the penalty kill. The Leafs had an amazing game on the PK against Philly, driving them up to 8th in the league having given up only 43.5 shots per 60 minutes on the PK.
Montreal is even lower than that. With both goalies playing as well as Scrivens and Montreal starter Carey Price, this has the potential to be a bit of a snooze-fest, and hopefully it sticks around at even strength, because the Habs’ powerplay is a little more dangerous, and because both teams are good on the penalty kill.
Here is the Habs’ lineup:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Michael Ryder – Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller
Brandon Prust – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Colby Armstrong – Travis Moen – Ryan White
Josh Gorges – Tomas Kaberle
Alexei Emelin – Andrei Markov
Francis Bouillon – PK Subban
Check out the usage charts here for forwards and defence. The Habs are without Rene Bourque and Raphel Diaz due to concussions. Bourque has been missing for about a week and they have a few depth wingers to spare, but Diaz being out should hurt them, and they’ll replace Diaz with Tomas Kaberle, who has been nothing since being traded out of Toronto a couple of springs ago.
I rag on Randy Carlyle for his use of forwards. Habs fans have similar gripes with the defence. Gorges and Diaz have been playing the tough minutes, while Markov and Subban, the teams’ best two defencemen, don’t necessarily match up the way top defencemen should. Subban is fourth on the Habs in ice-time per game and that’s including first unit powerplay duties. He killed penalties last season too, but new Habs coach Michel Therrien has moved away from that, but you can’t argue with the success of the penalty kill so far this season.
Up front, it’s a similar construct to the Leafs: Plekanec handles the toughs like Grabovski does, setting up David Desharnais and his top line to go up against easier competition. Plekanec has eight goals already on the year and leads the team, so he’s been getting it done at both ends. Michael Ryder will join up with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. They’re a nifty offensive tandem but Galchenyuk has been negative possession players in somewhat sheltered minutes offensively. Putting Eller with him, who is historically a good two-way guy is a neat move.
Grabovski will match naturally in the defensive zone against Desharnais, and hopefully he’ll run with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel against Galchenyuk and put some pressure on the rookie early on, taking advantage of him learning who his new teammate is next to him. Montreal’s fourth line plays ten minutes a night, and it’s preferable if Carlyle is able to get Nazem Kadri out against them and try and avoid the Plekanec matchup. I think the Habs are a slightly better team and match up more favourably at this point as far as forward units are concerned.
Especially since Colton Orr is rejoining Kadri’s right side:
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Nazem Kadri – Colton Orr
Nik Kulemin – Mikhail Grabovski – Leo Komarov
Mike Brown – Jay McClement – Frazer McLaren
Dion Phaneuf – Korbinian Holzer
Carl Gunnarsson – Mike Kostka
Cody Franson – Mark Fraser
So there’s Colton Orr in an NHL top-six, it would appear. Kadri’s line generated lots of chances in Orr’s absence, so if he has a good night, kindly refrain from suggesting it has anything to do with “space” created. Kadri has 97.7% more points away from Orr per 60 minutes (3.38) than with Orr (1.71) as per the data found at David Johnson’s site.
Lines information from Left Wing Lock