LGD – Game 13: Leafs @ Oilers – Infirmary

What are the big stories leading into the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers game? Both teams have lost some key players to injury in the early going, but the Leafs have managed to persevere and have one of the best records in the NHL. The Oilers stumbled out of the gate, were a respectable 2-3-1 on a tough six-game Eastern road trip and have generally bounced along so far, defying the positive expectations set for the team.

Tell you the truth, this year was the first in recent years that I’d bought into the Oilers preseason hype, and while I’m sure they’re a better team than the record indicates, they’re already pretty far back of a playoff spot, and nothing about their numbers suggest that they’re due for the quick and fast turnaround they need to inch closer to the Western Conference playoff race. The Pacific Division is an absolute nightmare. Five teams from the Pacific are Top 10 puck-possession clubs in the early going, with just Edmonton and provincial rival Calgary lagging behind.

While the Oilers get Sam Gagner back tonight, Edmonton is still putting together a skeleton roster in the absence of key forwards Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth as well as depth addition Jesse Joensuu. First of two on the road, and hopefully the Leafs are well-adjusted to the time zone difference. Worth noting: Edmonton are the only Western team that are below .500 against Eastern opponents.


  Leafs Oilers
Corsi Close % 43.6% (29th) 44.4 (28th)
5v5 GF/60 2.33 (15th) 2.54 (11th)
5v5 GA/60 2.22 (15th) 3.05 (29th)
PDO 1.026 (6th) .999 (15th)


  Leafs Oilers
5v4 GF/60 9.45 (5th) 4.26 (23rd)
5v4 SF/60 56.5 (10th) 57.1 (9th)
4v5 GA/60 3.92 (4th) 9.55 (28th)
4v5 GA/60 64.3 (28th) 61.3 (27th)
5v5 Penalty Diff -22 -3

Stats pulled from various places on Extra Skater.

If you’re a follower of this blog, none of the stats in the Leafs column should shock or amaze you. While a pretty average team at even strength, the Leafs have absolutely killed in on special teams. Unfortunately, the team gives up a lot of powerplays against (Extra Skater doesn’t sort those by team yet, so I added together player numbers in the meantime. I have to think minus-22 is one of the worst differentials in the NHL) and their shots against on the penalty kill are very poor this season while last year they were elite. They’re missing some key PK personnel in Nik Kulemin and Mark Fraser. Tyler Bozak, who had very strong shots against numbers on the PK last season (15.062 shots per 20 minutes) has allowed 27.957 against this season and is the highest on the Leafs.

There’s also some new personnel: Mason Raymond and James van Riemsdyk are killing penalties for the Leafs, when they weren’t last season (probably because Raymond was somewhere else). I think that either the shots against rate is going to improve from now until the end of the year, or the Leafs are going to keep bleeding goals against while shorthanded. Hidden under the bastion of awesomeness of the penalty kill is that the team has given up at least one powerplay goal against in six of the last seven games. That seemed to be an early season issue for Toronto last season as well.

As for the Oilers, they just can’t score, and they can’t really defend goals. From the NHL.com preview, this snippet really sums up the early part of their season:

Whatever comes next had better be positive. For the Oilers, “hotness” means having a slow start, as long as you aren’t on IR.


Is Joffrey Lupul back? The team has had no trouble scoring without him, and I think it would be silly to rush him back for back-to-back games early in the season against non-Conference opponents, but that’s just me. It seems he’ll be a gametime decision. Here’s dailyfaceoff:

James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – David Bolland – David Clarkson
Carter Ashton – Jay McClement – Colton Orr
Frazer McLaren – Trevor Smith – Troy Bodie

Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Paul Ranger – Jake Gardiner

With John-Michael Liles rather than T.J. Brennan acting as the 7th Leafs defenceman on this trip, I can kind of see that maybe the Leafs are in the process of putting Bozak on the long-term injured reserve. Otherwise, I don’t see how this is all going to fit under the salary cap.

The Bolland line played some excellent defence last time out against Sidney Crosby, Jay McClement’s line had its way against the bottom six, and Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk did Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk things. No reason to quibble with the forward units or to tinker unless Lupul is 100%.


Nail Yakupov – Sam Gagner – Jordan Eberle
David Perron – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Mark Arcobello
Ryan Jones – Boyd Gordon – Ales Hemsky
Ben Eager – Will Acton – Luke Gazdic

Denis Grebeshkov – Andrew Ference
Ladislav Smid – Jeff Petry
Justin Schultz – Anton Belov

With Gagner back, Arcobello shifts to wing, apparently.

The guy you really want to hate is David Perron. He’s an exceptionally skilled, dirty little rat that can get under your skin. He’s drawn 11 penalties, leading the Oilers, and has taken 10, which ties him for the team lead with enforcer Luke Gazdic. He has just 2 goals on 47 shots so far to start the season at 5-on-5 but I wouldn’t expect that low shooting percentage to continue.

The defence is unspectacular here. Petry and Smid get the tough defensive minutes at home (sort column “TotTm% F QoC H” and check in the glossary to see that refers to. Basically it’s a quality of competition metric that measures average ice-time of opponents and is super useful).

One thing Eakins does is he’s very particular about which line he starts in the offensive or defensive zone. Sort, in the Deployment section, the column O/D St%, which is shifts started in the offensive zone divided by all shifts started in either attacking end. You’ll note Yakupov leads the team. He was a healthy scratch last time the two teams played but coach Dallas Eakins has really tried to keep him away from having to play defence, sheltering him with his third line centred by Boyd Gordon.


Per Chris Johnston, it’ll be James Reimer, coming off a 37-of-38 performance and a win, against Richard Bachmann, coming off of 47-of-48 performance and a loss. Devan Dubnyk got hurt in Phoenix and he’s had a pretty brutal start regardless. Dallas Eakins is pretty patient with his goalies, but an NHL market with the longest playoff drought is probably less patient than an AHL fanbase. Bachman, career .906 save rate, will be in goal against one of the best shooting teams in the NHL.

In other words: “Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!”

The Oilers play in Edmonton, which is like, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains and is in some super weird timezone. Game starts at 9:00 Eastern and is on Sportsnet Ontario. Don’t forget Streakcred.

Steve Dangle in Edmonton

Our buddy Steve is in Edmonton this week. He was on the radio this morning with blogger and radio personality Allan Mitchell, or Lowetide. Check that out here, from TSN Radio 1260.

Also, for those of you into contests, check this out:

  • CheezWhizard

    Your “Key Statistics”:

    Corsi Close % 43.6% (29th) 44.4 (28th)
    5v5 GF/60 2.33 (15th) 2.54 (11th)
    5v5 GA/60 2.22 (15th) 3.05 (29th)
    PDO 1.026 (6th) .999 (15th)

    5v4 GF/60 9.45 (5th) 4.26 (23rd)
    5v4 SF/60 56.5 (10th) 57.1 (9th)
    4v5 GA/60 3.92 (4th) 9.55 (28th)
    4v5 GA/60 64.3 (28th) 61.3 (27th)
    5v5 Penalty Diff -22 -3

    Oh my gosh the Leafs could lose. Look at that Corsi.

    My “Key Statistics”:

    Wins 8 3
    Goal diff. +10 -14
    L10 6-4-0 2-6-2
    Vegas line -115 +105

    Maybe the Leafs have a chance?

    • CheezWhizard

      No way, I’m with Cam on this. If I was betting on this game, I can’t see how anyone could choose the leafs in this game aside from homerism.

      The leafs have a higher PDO so are more at risk for regression to the mean. Further, the leafs have an unsustainable PK% and PP% while the oilers are underperforming in special teams.

      This is a perfect game for a reversion to the mean of specials and which will once again showcase the superior power of advanced stats to goal differential. I will back be tomorrow to gloat about how advanced stats once again are superior to watching hockey.

      • CheezWhizard

        LOL,PDO! in other words, the Leafs have highly skilled and opportunistic shooters with solid tending. While the Oil don’t have the same shooting skill,with terrible tending. I’ll go with Vegas and take the Leafs. Anything can happen I guess. Although I’m thinking you may be being tongue in cheek with your comments.

  • Yeah, the PDO God the Corsiati pray to isn’t some maleficent force that will make teams slump.

    It is a completely unpredictable part of hockey. No team has gone through multiple seasons being able to sustain high shooting and save percentages. Perhaps the Leafs could be the first. Why not them?

    • Take a look at this. The Leafs are around 11% for most of 1998-2006:


      And also look at the Penguins, lots of incredible years 11-14%, so it can happen and might happen again.


      We did have some rule changes this year and that produced our last big uptick in 2005-06. Maybe the Leafs are exploiting them better than other teams so far. JVR has already said the shallow nets give him more room to move.

      I have said it elsewhere, but I find some of the statistical analysis from journalists and bloggers is quite questionable because the data sets used are so recent and the proponents know little about the numbers over the greater course of history.

      It’s like reading the work of a financial reporter who knows little about the Great Depression, yet tries to write about the Crisis of 2008. I’m curious about the shooting percentages of the Oiler’s dynasty, Mario’s Penguins and other high scoring historical teams. Maybe the Leaf wouldn’t be the first. Maybe this has already occured many times?

      For example, you might not think it possible, but this stat is easy to find. Mike Bossy had a shooting percentage that was almost always over 20% for his entire career.

      “No team has gone through multiple seasons being able to sustain high shooting and save percentages.”

      Maybe there are a number of teams that have done this?

  • Heh. Not the way I’d have made the comparison to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Remember, the salary cap drastically impacted the game. Teams simply can’t load up on offensive talent and win with shooting percentage. Phil Birnbaum’s recent posts have showed that it’s simply bad strategy to win with fewer shots and a higher shooting percentage.

    There’s going to be a time to debate these things, and it’s at the end of the year when there have been enough games played for us to really determine whether anybody was right or wrong… and then again, maybe not, because the NEXT 60 games are still going to be an exercise in small samples.

    I don’t think that there is a way to show whether shot quality is real, since once you have a large-enough sample to tell whether it’s repeatable, the landscape of the game has instantly changed. I do know that it’s a fool’s errand to predict shooting percentage over any stretch of games. The Leafs could shoot 10%. Could shoot 15%, could shoot 5% or could shoot 8%. That’s really the point. If you can’t predict it, then don’t bother predicting it. A lot of quants never saw the housing market crash because it would take an unprecedented event to cause it, and those smart thinkers that did see it coming bet against housing at first, and saw people pull money out of these investment funds because they didn’t have the immediate returns of those betting the market was sustainable.

    For us, we have seen, year after year, teams rocket out of the gate, and then fade in the stretch. Vancouver in 2008. Colorado in 2010. Dallas in 2011. Minnesota in 2012. These teams shared common traits, and if our information stops being reliable, we’ll know it in a year or two, and I’m sure reasonable people will make the necessary changes.

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