It was a rough night for the Nazem Kadri line and I’m trying to figure exactly why. I don’t think it was because Kadri was roughed up along the Bruins bench late in the first period and Brad Marchand jabbed at him, because Kadri and Clarke MacArthur connected on a pretty goal early in the next period.
Then again, it was a rough night for a whole lot of Leafs. Not in the physical sense, but just in the sense that their early pressure on the Boston Bruins’ net and Anton Khudobin got unrewarded, three defensive breakdowns cost the Leafs goals against and they ended up with a 4-2 loss at the Boston Gardens, their 8th straight defeat against one of the best teams in the East.
That said, it’s not as bad as the scoreboard indicated. When the Leafs went down 3-1 late in the second, I got the impression that the Leafs deserved better. Recap below.
-Toronto out-chanced the Bruins 10-8 after the second period. I thought Claude Julien ran into a bunch of the same traps that Randy Carlyle has found himself in this season. He overused his depth lines and didn’t place a lot of faith in his top line. For reference, Chris Kelly played more minutes at even strength than Tyler Seguin did. Rich Peverley played more than Brad Marchand. He seemed determined to avoid matching David Krejci against Tyler Bozak, and his third line, not known as an effective checking unit, saw most of the face-offs in the Bruins end. They took some bad penalties, Toronto went to a 5-on-3 and failed to convert. Details.
-But they took some pills in the second intermission and played effective, boring, low-event hockey to ensure that Toronto wouldn’t tie it up. They out-chanced the Leafs 4-0 in the third—Mikhail Grabovski’s shot tipped in by Jay McClement doesn’t count as a chance under our definition—and it was unlikely the Leafs could come all the way back being hemmed so far to the outside. Not like Randy Carlyle likes to take risks.
-Before the game, there was some chatter about the way Carlyle doesn’t trust Jake Gardiner based on a TSN radio segment from Darren Dreger. I haven’t heard the segment yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Carlyle doesn’t think Gardiner’s game would work well on the Leafs. It is so rare to see the defence jump up in the play or be involved on scoring chances. Last year when I’d watch Leaf games and occasionally track them, Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles and Gardiner were very noticeable in the offensive end. Gardiner and Liles don’t work in this system, where Carlyle likes to have two guys swarming the net, a third forward supporting and point men stopping a quick breakout and not being beaten on pinches. The Leafs very rarely get beaten on pinches, but it does take away from the offence at the other end of the ice and makes the attack very stoic, almost like you need a good bounce or two to even create a scoring chance, never mind make sure it goes in.
-Despite the team doing well through 40, there aren’t a lot of Toronto players I could look at and say “oh, he was excellent”. Clarke MacArthur had a bit of a dud game, Phil Kessel looked slow and structured and the Dion Phaneuf-Korbinian Holzer pairing was hilarious. I guess you can give some credit to Grabovski & Co. who effectively shut down Boston’s dangerous first line for a good portion of the game. They were held to a single scoring chance with Grabovski on the ice.
-Hockey expert Kevin McGran:
has anyone seen MIkhail Grabovski?
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) March 8, 2013
-Hockey expert Kevin McGran also thought it was appropriate to mock the difficult-to-comprehend and also dangerous dark wizardry of counting up the number of times a player starts in the defensive zone and subtracting the number of times the same player starts a shift in the offensive zone. Grabovski’s line was the best the Leafs had on the night. They looked a bit out of sorts on the second Boston goal, but otherwise kept them in check. Grabovski and Nik Kulemin were the two plus-Leafs on the night in scoring chances.
-So was David Steckel. Don’t know how that happened.
-Also enjoyed Leo Komarov’s game. When he came over in the summer I thought he might be a bit of a novelty playing in depth minutes, but he’s been a strong two-way guy for Toronto. Actually got some good scoring chances in this game. I couldn’t care less about the number of “hits” the NHL.com scorers are crediting him for because I think “hits” is a bogus statistic, but he picks his spots effectively and I don’t see him at all as a drag on Kadri. In fact, the two have some excellent synergy: coming into tonight, Kadri was a 49.8% possession player without Komarov, and 55.1% with Komarov. I think that’s the right sort of role for him. He’s a guy who can create space and beat up defencemen, but doesn’t do it by being a black hole in talent.
-Three goals on 20 even strength shots doesn’t reflect well on Ben Scrivens. Three goals on seven shots within the scoring area also doesn’t reflect well on Ben Scrivens. Ben Bishop-esque numbers on the night, but I don’t think Toronto should expect championship-calibre goaltending out of their backup. He had a very good run while James Reimer was hurt. Thought Anton Khudobin might have a similar performance at the other end when the dual-backup starters was announced pre-game, but he played pretty well, stopping one of eight shots in the scoring area and 21 of 23 total.
-Convinced Colton Orr is a positive? Good pal Chemmy from Pension Plan Puppets compiled Bruins fans reactions to Colton Orr’s dumb penalty in the third period:
Lol Colton Orr is an NHLer
— Justin Aucoin (@JustinDOY) March 8, 2013
Those tough Leafs! Scary!
— Ian (@bumpasaurus) March 8, 2013
@bruce_arthur really like that guy
— Texy (@Texas_Gal) March 8, 2013
-This is me not terrifically convinced Colton Orr strikes fear into the heart of the opposition.
-Toronto struggled in the face-off circle. I don’t think “face-offs” is a very good measure of anything, but I will bring it up when the overall statistic is notable to me. Funny though: Grabovski went 2-for-9 and had a good night with regard to puck possession, Nazem Kadri went 5-of-11 and got beaten up. The puck changes which stick its on so often I wonder how much those bonus seconds with the puck on your stick at the start of a shift are worth it. What matters is where the puck is on the ice, and whether you can apply enough pressure between face-offs to force turnovers.
-Tyler Bozak should be taking every defensive zone face-off as long as the Leafs are rolling with three lines. I really, really, really don’t get why Mikhail Grabovski isn’t getting more offensive opportunities, but perhaps Hockey Expert Kevin McGran can ask him why.
-Individual scoring chance totals:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||3||2||1|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||5 (3)||5 (5)||0 (0)||10 (8)|
|Boston (EV)||5 (4)||3 (3)||4 (3)||12 (10)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Andrew Ference
- Patrice Bergeron
- Leo Komarov