The last time the Leafs went into Winnipeg, it was my last game preview writing about a goal-less Phil Kessel. Kessel scored a late game winner for the Leafs who took a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Last season, everything sort of crashed for the Leafs after their second visit to Winnipeg. Having taken 9 of 10 points in their last five games and a 28-20-6 record, the Leafs would go on to win just one of their next 11 games after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Jets. Chris Thorburn and Blake Wheeler scored the goals and Ondrej Pavelec, probably Winnipeg’s shakiest player, stopped 17 of 18 shots. Really, he wasn’t tested too much. I bring this up because an article in the Globe & Mail suggests a similar decline for Toronto this season, although with 22 games to go in the regular season rather than 28, the Leafs have a bit more breathing room.
If you need a reminder of Toronto’s last game in Winnipeg, well, why would you? Other than the Kessel goal, it was a real uneventful, boring game. Toronto had just six scoring chances and Winnipeg had three. Those are reasonable numbers for a single period, not three. This was also the start of a pretty long stretch of games where Randy Carlyle was committed to boring hockey. The Leafs have drawn a little away from that in recent games starting with the one against the Islanders, so we’re actually seeing some open space in the neutral zone, and the defence is doing more than “collapse in front of James Reimer or Ben Scrivens”.
Puck Drop: 8 PM EDT
TV: Leafs TV
By The Numbers:
|Fenwick Close||50.44% (16th)||44.30% (28th)|
|5v5 GF/GA Ratio||0.92 (20th)||1.06 (13th)|
|Team Shooting %||8.00%||10.30%|
|Team Save %||0.911||0.922|
|PP Success||13.5% (28th)||18.6% (12th)|
|5v4 GF/60||4.7 (24th)||6.4 (11th)|
|5v4 SF/60||38.7 (29th)||49.1 (12th)|
|PK Success||76.9% (27th)||84.3% (7th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.8 (16th)||5.1 (8th)|
|4v5 SA/60||40.0 (4th)||42.8 (8th)|
Winnipeg is a bit more proficient at even strength than you might think. They’re a well-coached group that has had some trouble goaltending at even strength and on the penalty kill. Pavelec has just a .797 save percentage on the penalty kill, which is much too low to be sustainable, but it’s cost the Jets a lot of goals against so far this season. They’re just 12-11-2, or two points out of the playoffs.
Linking the usage charts for the Jets forwards and defence. Up front you can see Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov and Nik Antropov get the bulk of the offensive zone starts and have some success. Andrew Ladd plays tough competition and stays in the blue. Jim Slater plays a role similar to David Steckel last season: lots of defensive zone face-offs, but generally against weaker competition.
Here’s their projected lineup:
Blake Wheeler – Bryan Little – Andrew Ladd
Evander Kane – Olli Jokinen – Antti Miettinen
Nik Antropov – Kyle Wellwood – James Wright
Eric Tangradi – Jim Slater – Alex Burmistrov
Ron Hainsey – Zach Bogosian
Grant Clitsome – Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart – Derek Meetch
Their defence is stretched a little thin with an injury to Tobias Enstrom. Their fourth line looks a little sparse. Burmistrov has been benched for I-have-no-idea-why sporadically for a couple of weeks, and Noel doesn’t really roll his fourth line much at all, looking for specialized areas to insert Slater, Tangradi and Burmistrov into the lineup.
Their first line is pretty killer and has lots of speed. Should be a good matchup for Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. I expect Mikhail Grabovski should see time against Jokinen and Kane, who can’t be taken lightly. I would though, like to see Carlyle not match up so tight with his top checking line and top defensive pairing, since it’s killing the overall abilities of those players.
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Nik Kulemin – Mikhail Grabovski – Matt Frattin
Frazer McLaren – Jay McClement – Colton Orr
Dion Phaneuf – Korbinian Holzer
Carl Gunnarsson – Mike Kostka
Cody Franson – Mark Fraser
Interesting. Wingers on the second and third line switch up and I don’t entirely know the purpose. Frattin’s more offensive and Komarov is more of a checker. On defence, Paul Hendrick reported that Phaneuf and Holzer are not together. Again, not positive. Carlyle switched up his defence last game to stop the bleeding against Pittsburgh and ended up with Dion Phaneuf alongside Cody Franson. To me that’s a better top pair. Holzer has not been handling his assignments well this season.
Lines Info via Left Wing Lock
One thing to read:
Don’t bet against the Jets (Chris Johnston, Sportsnet)