That Tuukka wind outta our sails – Bruins take G3 5-2

Photo via Graig Abel/NHL Interactive

Not many ways to polish this one. A 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 and the Leafs fall behind two games to one in the series.

It’s hard to see exactly what went wrong, though. Phil Kessel got his fair share of time away from Zdeno Chara as Toronto had an easier time controlling the individual matchups. Jake Gardiner was skating really strong and got some offence going. The Leafs shut down the Bruins top line of Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, holding them to two shots apiece and a single scoring chance between them.

Can’t have been special teams. Even after allowing a disheartening shorthanded goal to Daniel Paille, the Leafs were +1 in special teams, going two-for-six on their own powerplay, in addition to out-shooting Boston 11-1 at 4-on-4. There were a lot of individual efforts to like, and a lot of micro areas of the game you could analyze and conclude the Maple Leafs were a better team.

But they weren’t. The Bruins had them beat 5-on-5, almost brutally. A game played in stark juxtaposition to the second game of the series, in front of a boisterous crowd backed by many more thousands outside the doors. Leafs Nation showed up, and the Maple Leafs did as well. Unfortunately, they were beaten by a real good hockey team on Monday night. Details below.

We’ll have more on how coach Claude Julien countered the Chara matchup, but it looked to be pretty clear that he wanted to get his best defensive guys playing in his own end, and zone matched a little harder than usual tonight. It’s typical for Julien to use his forwards in distinct zone situations, but he was quite extreme in Game 3—particularly with his defence:

-Of the team’s 24 defensive zone faceoffs:

-Patrice Bergeron was out for 14 of them.
-Gregory Campbell was out for 9 of them.
-Chris Kelly was out for 13 of them.
-David Krejci was out for 0 of them.
-Bergeron was on the ice with Campbell for all 9 of Campbell’s. 

On defence, this may be pretty rare, but:

-Zdeno Chara was out for 15 of them.
-Johnny Boychuk was out for 12.
-Dennis Seidenberg was out for 9.
-Andrew Ference was out for 9.
-Adam McQuaid was out for 3.
-Wade Redden was out for 0.

-Shows the kind of faith Julien has in his third line but not his third pairing D. He banks on Chara so much at either end. It’s rare for a team to be that top-heavy: Chara was also out for 7 of the team’s 16 offensive zone faceoffs, more than any other defenceman as well.

-Did that particularly work? No. Kessel played 6.0 Chara-less minutes on the ice tonight, the Leafs marginally out-shooting Boston 11-10 in those situations and out-chancing the Bruins 4-3. Kessel himself had an okay game, with nine shot attempts, five of those on goal. He had two dangerous outside looks, one of those was on the powerplay, and was probably the Leafs’ second most dangerous offensive guy.

-Best was James van Riemsdyk. Eight shots on net, four of those counting as scoring chances. Effective game from him, even if he didn’t score a goal for the first time in these playoffs. The second line had another good game, although they were marginally out-chanced 1-2. 

-Biggest difference? The play of Milan Lucic. He was the most effective Bruin early on: Boston had six scoring chances in the first period and Looch factored in on three of those. He finished with five shots and three assists, which was consistent with how the #fancystats rated him tonight. Even though the third period was heavily tilted shot-wise in the third period thanks to score effects, Lucic ended with a +4 Fenwick (unblocked shot differential) and +3 in scoring chances. Nathan Horton was also +3 and David Krejci was +4. Much better game from them.

-So in Game 2, the Bruins second line goes quiet. In Game 3, the Bruins’ first line goes quiet. Game 1 is what happens when both are going. Worth noting that Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson primarily matched up against the Krejci line in Game 2 and the Bergeron line in Game 3. 

-Like Game 1, limited night offensively for Nazem Kadri. His line was +1/-3 in chances, Kadri was individually a minus-5 in Fenwick, and he recorded just two shots on net (although two blocked attempts and two misses, but no scoring chances). Unfortunately, while Chara was pulled away from Kessel, he matched up a lot against Joffrey Lupul (9.4 minutes) and Kadri (8.2) and kept them in check all night. Tough guy to beat. 

-Then again, Chara was limited offensively, probably because there was so much push-back by the Maple Leafs in the third period and Toronto had the special team’s advantage. Toronto out-shot the Bruins 11-1 on 4-on-4 situations, as noted, and those don’t get tracked in the chart below, but the contributions of the Grabovskis and van Riemsdyks of the world should be noted at 4-on-4. 

-8:49 for Jay McClement, 7:38 for Ryan Hamilton, 7:31 for Leo Komarov and 4:49 for Colton Orr. Neither were particularly effective (maybe McClement during special teams) but given their limited ice-time and huge number of scoring chances recorded against them, perhaps one ought to take a seat for the more versatile Clarke MacArthur in Game 4. 

-Apparently Colorado Avalanche fans called Ryan O’Byrne ROBitussin:

-I don’t want to hammer the guy because O’Byrne wasn’t the biggest problem on the night, and Phil Kessel made a bad giveaway leading up to the Danny Paille goal. They happen, but O’Byrne wasn’t particularly good otherwise. I think his good scoring chance differential on the evening was thanks to the play of Jake Gardiner, who I thought was absolutely fantastic.

-It’s so refreshing to see a Leafs defenceman actually invade the offensive zone. Offensive chances generally start from below the Bowman line, unless the plan is to fire pucks at random from the point and hope for rebounds. 

-The Leafs put 14 of their 15 scoring chances on net. Dion Phaneuf hit a post, and Tuukka Rask handled 12 of them. Pretty good save rate, particularly in the third as Toronto got two good opportunities after making the score 4-2. Rask was amazing, stopping 40 shots at even strength out of 40 faced. 

-James Reimer was a bit “meh”-er. Stopped 8-of-11 scoring chances which isn’t bad, but he didn’t look good on the Adam McQuaid goal. He had a .912 save percentage at even strength, which is pretty good, but not *excellent* and *excellent* goaltending is required from Reimer to win these games.

-Ultimately… some good things, but the Bruins are a lot better 5-on-5 especially once you factor in the goaltending, and that’s where they won the game. What’s the answer for Game 4? Is it more faceoff wins? More hits? More shots? The real answer is “better players”. The Leafs’ record to this point is illusory and getting here has been a lot of fun, but this is a team that will be out-matched in a playoff series against the Bruins and need a lot of things to break the right way to have a chance.

-That didn’t happen tonight, hence the scoreline. 

Individual scoring chances:

  Chances For Chances Vs. Chance Diff.
Tyler Bozak 4 4 0
Joffrey Lupul 3 3 0
Phil Kessel 4 3 1
Mikhail Grabovski 1 2 -1
James van Riemsdyk 3 4 -1
Nik Kulemin 1 2 -1
Nazem Kadri 1 3 -2
Matt Frattin 1 3 -2
Ryan Hamilton 0 1 -1
Jay McClement 0 3 -3
Colton Orr 0 2 -2
Leo Komarov 0 3 -3
Dion Phaneuf 3 5 -2
Carl Gunnarsson 3 3 0
Cody Franson 1 4 -3
Mark Fraser 1 4 -3
Ryan O’Byrne 2 3 -1
Jake Gardiner 2 3 -1
  Chances For Chances Vs. Chance Diff.
Patrice Bergeron 1 2 -1
Tyler Seguin 1 4 -3
Brad Marchand 2 1 1
David Krejci 6 2 4
Milan Lucic 5 2 3
Nathan Horton 5 2 3
Chris Kelly 2 1 1
Rich Peverley 2 0 2
Jaromir Jagr 4 0 4
Gregory Campbell 2 0 2
Danny Paille 2 2 0
Shawn Thornton 1 2 -1
Zdeno Chara 3 3 0
Dennis Seidenberg 3 3 0
Andrew Ference 3 2 1
Johnny Boychuk 4 2 2
Wade Redden 5 1 4
Adam McQuaid 4 1 3

Team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 3 (3) 7 (5) 5 (2) 15 (10)
Boston (EV) 6 (6) 7 (5) 0 (0) 13 (11)


LeafsNation Three Stars:

  1. Milan Lucic
  2. Tuukka Rask
  3. James van Riemsdyk

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  • justVisiting

    It’s time for Fraser to take a seat and Let Liles Play. Fraser wasn’t particularly bad, but Liles bring much more to the table than Fraser.

    And for the love of god I wish Randy would use Gardiner on the 1st PP unit.

    • Back in Black

      Give you an amen? AMEN! Especially on Gardiner, he was flying last night and has 2 points in 2 games. Is he the fastest skater on the team? Maybe Fratten is faster. Several times last night he would carry the puck deep or join the rush deep and be back in his defensive position long before he needed to be. Confidence growing with every shift. He’s too fast and too skilled not to be playing half the game. I’ve always felt it should be Grads setting up Franson with soft passes on pillows with mints on them so he could blast it home on the PP. No shame in having the Captain on the second unit.

  • justVisiting

    I realized why I don’t like your blogs. You’re too arrogant and condescending about the message you’re trying to drill home (in this case, that the Leafs are going to lose the series) when the statistical models you’re using are kind of vague and have limited usefulness.

    Fenwick for example has a noted issue of being a worse indicator of performance when teams “work harder to catch up”. Effort, which in the playoffs is easily influenced by momentumm and player mental states, is treated as an outlier. How is that fully representative of what’s happening on the ice? It’s lazy to draw conclusions from.

    Then you have the audacity to suggest that the Leafs need better players. I’ve read your blogs long enough to know that Fenwick led you to draw the conclusion that the Leafs are a bad team. Yet look at the 2011-2012 Islanders. Their fenwick was at 44.1%. They were considered an awful team. Now their Fenwick is 12th in the league so they’re considered a pretty good team.

    Pretty much the only differences between these two teams are the loss of Parenteau and the addition of Boyes/Visnovsky. Two moves that seemed minor and insignificant at the time. Same coach too. Needing “better players” is simultaneously such a bold and dubious statement to make.

    That’s why it’s frustrating as a Leafs fan to read a non-Leafs fan write a negative blog post with the implication that they’re right just because the vague prediction models say so.

    • Back in Black

      I never get tired of people who believe that things like “effort” can lead to wins without leading to shots on goal. How does effort help you win if it doesn’t help you score?

      “Momentum” is another great one. I caught Hughson last night raving over Phaneuf’s “momentum-changer” hit, even though when he said it he already knew that the Bruins had scored 10 seconds later. It was a great hit, clean and powerful, but if it changed momentum then it sure didn’t last long.

    • Er… no model I’ve found will predict playoff winners better than Corsi Tied.

      The Islanders are more than the additions of Boyes and Visnovsky. Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey took steps forward and center a top defensive forward unit, but the team is pretty mediocre without Visnovsky on the ice. Combined with the improvement on that second unit and the Isles are a better team.

      No statistical model doesn’t admit that there’s the potential for players to not grow, and hell, nobody predicted the Islanders to be really good, but turns out nobody knew how good Lubo Visnovsky is when you give him the puck.

      Pretty much, the reason people don’t like using statistical reasoning to forecast series is because they’re not right 100% of the time. But nobody is. I’m not looking to see who wins and loses games in a one-game sample. I’m looking instead at the overall process and who played well in what matchups.

      I also didn’t find this post really negative. There were lots of positive things about the Leafs. If it weren’t for being in the playoffs and having to beat this team three out of the next four games, I’d probably write a post in the regular season about how Tuukka Rask simply stole one, and the Leafs can move on with their heads high that they can generate a lot of offence against the Bruins.

      But it’s the playoffs, and instead I have to look for trends, to determine what aspect of this game is going to affect the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

      • Back in Black

        The odd part of the Islanders argument is that when their Fenwick was awful, their results were awful. Now that their Fenwick is good, their results are good. It illustrates the success of the model, not some sort of outlier.

  • Back in Black

    As for Back and Black’s post, momentum is clearly a factor in games. Just because Hughson incorrectly identified it doesn’t mean you can disregard it completely.

    • Back in Black

      Momentum is a factor in games, I agree (for that matter, so is effort). The fun part, though, is people who think they can pick out discrete points that “changed the momentum”. Hits and fights are the worst examples of confusing correlation with causation, and it has built up to the point where it’s just assumed that a big hit must be a “momentum-changer”.

      In my opinion it’s a bunch of little things that lead to swings of momentum. It can be as discrete as a great shift, but it’s seldom a single non-scoring play.

  • Back in Black

    I agree with ya on Reimer: when he has a great game, he really stands out. Last night in what I saw (flipped back and forth with the Jays) he didn’t, like he did on Saturday night. I hope this was just an off night or jitters or something and not what the rest of the series will look like.

    Also, did anyone watch the camera they had at Maple Leaf Square last night? Never seen a crowd of fans look so subdued. Although big props to the guy wearing a Raycroft jersey, haven’t seen those in a while.

    • MaxPower417

      I was at maple leaf square and it was hardly subdued. The problem was a lot of the shots they took of the crowd were doing commercial breaks where I guess we were supposed to cheer about being on TV, when really we were there to cheer on the team. Just bad decision making by CBC because that place was hoping during the action.

  • MaxPower417

    The playoffs can be so disheartening. If this was a regular season game there would be so many positives to pull out of this, I wouldn’t even be that disappointed. Jake Gardiner for example is something special, it’s mind boggling how much time he spent in the press box.

  • jasken

    As I sit back and enjoy these games I laugh at the real problem consistency. Before each game you take a coin flip and see which team will show up that game. Its entirely possible Leafs can win the series because so far as I seen Boston is not really beating the Leafs the dont need to the Leafs have been doing that all by themselves. What to look forward to possibly next game is this continuous roller coaster ride with a possible surprise where the Leafs win and their back at the top of a slope again.