Playoffs!!!1 gameday: Game 3 Bruins @ Leafs

Hope! Change! Freedom! I didn’t think it was unlikely that the Toronto Maple Leafs would win a game in this series, but I thought it was unlikely that the Toronto Maple Leafs would win a game where they didn’t have to bank on the play of James Reimer to pull out on top.

Game 2, that’s exactly what they did. They significantly out-chanced Boston (with the caveat: if you exclude second-chance rebound opportunities, which are sporadic and random and rare, Boston held a slim 11-10 advantage at even strength, 10-10 at five-on-five) and came close to out-shooting the Bruins at the 40-minute mark. 

At the start of the third, they exploited a matchup quirk, got a big goal from Phil Kessel, and their defensive line bent on shutting down the opposition’s top offensive line got themselves a big goal late in the contest.

All in all, strong effort, and the right guys got rewarded. What changes in Game 2?

The most noticeable change is that Randy Carlyle likes to match up forwards on forwards, while Claude Julien prefers the “faceoff zones” approach. For instance, Patrice Bergeron took 24 draws in Game 2. 12 were in the offensive end. Rich Peverly took 12, and 7 were in the defensive end. If you discount neutral zone starts, the numbers get disproportionate.

Now, Carlyle does the same thing, but he banks on Tyler Bozak in both zones and Nazem Kadri in both zones while he’s on the road. At home, he likes to match Bozak on the opposition’s top line, Mikhail Grabovski on the second line and Nazem Kadri on the third. That’s mostly what the Leafs got in Game 2 of the series.

From, I tallied up head-to-head shifts and broke them down by percentages. So the percentages listed under “37” would indicate the percentage of Bergeron’s total minutes played against Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, and so on down the list. I highlighted the three most prominent forward matchups and two most prominent defensive matchups:

What struck me in all that was Nik Kulemin actually. With all the fuss in breaking up Frattin and Kessel, Kulemin was saddled with the third most minutes against Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand in addition to his duties in shutting down David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

In a little under five minutes against the top Bruins line in Game 2, the Leafs conceded one scoring chance with Nik Kulemin on the ice. That’s not a half bad rate. Adjusted for rebounds, Kulemin was a plus-2 in scoring chances. You’ll see that he also matched up quite a bit against Jaromir Jagr. We’ll let Jack Edwards walk us through the only scoring chances in those shifts:


The second sequence misses Kulemin knocking Jagr off the puck. Also, anybody who doesn’t like Jack Edwards is missing the plot. He gives a lot of credit to opposing players when they match the Bruins toughness, or do something like the James van Riemsdyk goal. Just a great overall sequence from Toronto’s second line there.

So the Leafs will get that Krejci-on-Grabovski matchup again that I think they’re looking for. That certainly wasn’t in Claude Julien’s design: he sent his second line out for 7 faceoffs against Bozak and 6 against Grabovski, but Grabovski played twice as much time against Krejci as Bozak in the end.

Carlyle isn’t giving away lineups but I don’t think there will be too much change from Game 2. Andrew Ference is back in the lineup, which should cut in to the amount of scoring chances Toronto can generate against depth Bruins defence. That loss hurt them a lot more in Game 2 than I think anybody was anticipating.

Apparently Dougie Hamilton is the odd-man out, but Bruins forward units will stay the same. 


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