To quote Steve Dangle, the Leafs “have now won back-to-back games, and given up 50 shots in each of them, and had a different goalie win each of them. This goofy friggin’ team.”
Even when the Leafs win, they can’t do so without escaping criticism. They’ve blown leads in their last two wins, but have wound up with two points against two teams that they won’t have to chase come playoff time. In fact, the win before the one against Dallas, they also gave up 50 shots, this time to Washington. Every game, they gave up a late lead, 50 shots, and won in overtime. They haven’t won in regulation in nine games now, and haven’t beaten a playoff team in regulation in 19!
So yes, despite a two game win streak, everything isn’t rosy in Leaf-land, although “winners of their last two” looks a hell of a lot better than “losers of their last five” which is what everybody was writing on Thursday. The good news is that there’s enough games played that trends reverse rather quickly, which was a point I made in the Dallas pre-game.
|Corsi Close %||53.2% (6th)||42.2% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.21 (14th)||1.98 (20th)|
|5v5 GA/60||1.62 (3rd)||1.90 (6th)|
|PDO||102.1 (3rd)||102.7 (2nd)|
|5v4 GF/60||6.26 (13th)||8.70 (3rd)|
|5v4 SF/60||57.3 (8th)||57.8 (7th)|
|4v5 GA/60||5.21 (7th)||6.45 (20th)|
|4v5 SA/60||47.7 (12th)||59.9 (26th)|
|Penalty Differential||-14 (28th)||-26 (30th)|
We’ll get into the silly stuff involving the Bruins later. For now, we’ll focus on the fact the Bruins are a tough puck-possession team that puts pucks in the back of the net at a league average rate, and thanks to a fantastic goaltender and their inability to give up shots, give up fewer goals than all but two teams.
Special teams are a bit wonkier. The Bruins had an elite PK last season, but that’s faltered a bit, with Tuukka Rask helping them stay in the top third. The Leafs PK has been improving in shots given up, but the goals against continue to slip. Boston’s powerplay has been a bit better this year, finally with some of their defencemen clicking. All that powerplay does is take shots from the point. It’s like that’s all Claude Julien ever watched as a kid.
Also, like the Senators, the Bruins take a lot of penalties as well. Last night the Leafs took 8 penalties and Ottawa took 6, so special teams could factor in again tonight, unless both teams are too tired of taking penalties.
BRUINS ARE GOONS
When you have a reputation you believe is false and then you live up to it, well … you don’t really have the right to preach against what others say about you.
The Bruins lived up to the reputation as goons during the first period of their win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at TD Garden.
Overshadowing the Bruins’ dramatic third-period comeback that capped the 3-2 victory was the way the Black and Gold responded to some of the Penguins’ dastardly deeds.
That’s a hell of a way to start a column. Last night Boston scored twice in the final 90 seconds to beat Pittsburgh, but nobody is talking about that. Shawn Thornton pulled Brooks Orpik out of a pile and started punching him while he was on the ground until he was unconscious.
Brad Marchand was also kneed in the head by James Neal, but returned to the game. Chris Kelly will be out after taking a slash from Pascal Dupuis. Loui Eriksson was also concussed after sustaining a hard hit from Orpik. Johnny Boychuk will be out after being boarded by Max Pacioretty on Thursday (“that kind of hurts, doesn’t it Johnny?” says Mason Raymond).
Isn’t it weird how the Bruins still seem to get cheapshotted despite having so many players on the team that can fight? It’s almost like a gameplan that emphasizes random acts of violence also increases the opponent’s desire to act violent. Boston will put together a skeleton roster for this game, but it’s still pretty good.
Basically, all they need is Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask and they’ll be fine. All three are top five in the world at their respective positions (somebody took issue with me saying that about Bergeron in the last Bruins-Leafs gamethread, and after Bergeron scored twice for Boston in that game, maybe he won’t do that again) and don’t need a heck of a lot of help.
They’ve called up Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser for the game. Our friends at Cup of Chowder will have all the roster stuff for the Bruins.
AS FOR THE LEAFS
We know it’s only worth writing about the top six. Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Mason Raymond, and Joffrey Lupul when he plays, are the only Leafs capable of scoring goals these days it seems. Granted, Jake Gardiner scored his first in Ottawa, but the trend is rather clear.
As somebody who bet the “over” on David Clarkson’s goal total (13.5) I have to think it’s only a matter of time before pucks start finding net with him. Nobody else misses such wide-open opportunities in such grating fashion, because he seems to do it once or twice a game now.
I hope the Leafs try to play a skill game around the Bruins. Shawn Thornton won’t dress, so there’s no reason to throw tomato cans out onto the ice. I think the Leafs need to take advantage of a depleted Bruins top six and defence. Toronto always seems to play the Bruins well, and I think this is a game the Leafs could reasonably look at to out-shoot the opposition. I don’t think Boston is invincible against the Leafs at all. For whatever reason, the Leafs look excellent when they play against them.
Jonathan Bernier will start in goal for the Leafs. I presume it’s Tuukka for the Bruins. He’s already played the second half of a back-to-back twice, but I’d rather Chad Johnson, with the Leafs offensive issues. Powerplay has been great, but they need some more 5-on-5 production, especially from the bottom six.