Gameday Preview: Maple Leafs at Senators

A Senators game home game on a Saturday night? What kind of bizarro world are we living in?

Gameday Preview: Maple Leafs at Senators
Mason Raymond #12 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his shootout goal against the Ottawa Senators during the home opener at the Air Canada Centre October 5, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs (15-11-3)
@
Ottawa Senators (11-14-4)
Canadian Tire Centre: 7:00 pm

Storylines…

A Senators game home game on a Saturday night? What kind of bizarro world are we living in?

Yes, having been inundated with Friday night games and the odd weekend matinees to ensure the organization could maximize the revenues from their regional television deal, the Sens will play the first of their three (three!?!) Saturday night home games tonight.

Considering it is a regular season game in early December, the stakes could not be higher. Keeping that in mind, you could not possibly ask for a better opponent than the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.

Despite their 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, the Leafs have precipitously fallen in the Atlantic Division standings – losing five of their past six games and allowing 24 goals in the process.

After jumping out to a 10-4-0 record to start their season, many pundits foreshadowed Toronto’s decline by pointing out that the team’s goaltending and unsustainably high shooting percentage could not mask this team’s poor puck possession metrics over the full course of the season.

Working in Toronto’s favour is that they have enjoyed some recent success against the Senators. In their past eight games, the Leafs have won seven, outscoring the Sens by an aggregate score of 30 to 13. Special teams has played an integral factor in this stretch of games. Toronto’s power play has scored on 10 of 29 opportunities (34.5%) and killed every single one of Ottawa’s 20 power play opportunities. In fact, Ottawa hasn’t scored a power play goal on Toronto since November 12, 2011.

A loss in regulation to the Leafs will put the Sens nine points back of the Eastern Conference’s second wild card playoff spot. Sportsclubstats.com currently gives the Senators a 15.7 percent chance of reaching the postseason.

For lineup notes, Cory Conacher took a maintenance day yesterday but is expected to be healthy enough to play in tonight’s game. There also is a chance that Matt Kassian, who has been a healthy scratch for the past ten games, could draw into Ottawa’s lineup.

Colton Orr and Tyler Bozak are out with injuries and John-Michael Liles was recalled from the Marlies yesterday. There has been no indication on who Toronto’s starting goaltender will be, but James Reimer is 8-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA and a save percentage of .941 in his career versus Ottawa. To complicate matters however, Jonathan Bernier is also coming off an incredible 48-save performance versus Dallas.

Interesting Stat #1

After the numbers that he posted last season, much has been made of how Craig Anderson has seemingly lost his ability to make the timely save. Nothing is more reflective of that than his performance when the opposition has the man advantage.

Thus far, Anderson is tied with Corey Crawford for having allowed the second-most number of power plays this season with 19. Only Phoenix’s Mike Smith has allowed more power play goals (22) but he has also faced 152 shots; almost twice the amount that Anderson (78) has faced.

Of the goaltenders who have played in more than five games, Anderson has the worst save percentage (.756) in the NHL when his team is shorthanded.

Although no team has taken more minor penalties than the Senators, the Senators’ penalty kill has actually been relatively average in terms of the volume of shots that it gives up. According to Behindthenet.ca, the Senators currently average the 16th highest number of shots allowed (50.4) per 60 minutes of four-on-five (shorthanded) play. For what it’s worth, Buffalo leads the NHL with 67.6 shots allowed per 60 minutes of four-on-five play.

Interesting Stat #2

Earlier I mentioned how the Leafs were a terrible puck possession team, and getting back to that point, the Toronto Maple Leafs rank second last in the NHL in Close Corsi Percentage and Close Fenwick Percentage.

For those unfamiliar with the metrics, they are both simply proxies used to measure puck possession. Corsi refers to the number of shots, missed shots and blocked shots. Fenwick simply refers to the number of shots and missed shots that a team accumulates. Put in percentage terms, they look at the number of Corsi or Fenwick events relative to the opposition. In other words, if a team has a Corsi percentage of 55.5 when playing at five-on-five, it means that team takes 55.5 percent of the shots, missed shots, and shots that are blocked by the opposition. The higher the number, the more that that team is winning the puck possession battle.

So when adjusting for score effects by looking at the Corsi or Fenwick percentages when the game has a one goal margin or less, only the Buffalo Sabres have worse possession numbers than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Interesting Stat #3

With Tyler Bozak sustaining a strained rib cage muscle, the instinctual thing is to question what kind of impact the loss of Toronto’s first line center would have on Phil Kessel, the team’s best player.

According to HockeyAnalysis.com however, the numbers interestingly show that his line is more productive player when Nazem Kadri is his center:

Goals For/20

Goals Against/20

Corsi For %

With Kadri (2013/14)

1.504

0.752

41.2

With Kadri (2012/13)

1.842

0.921

45.6

With Bozak (2013/14)

1.067

0.712

43.2

With Bozak (2012/13)

0.972

0.907

46.8

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment