Maple Leafs v. Thrashers

This guy is a beast.

The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Atlanta Thrashers in a rare Monday night game. The Thrashers have been one of the great stories of the year. They have been the prototypical "Ewing Theory" team. What's that? Well, basically, it's the idea that the loss of a superstar can sometimes be the best thing to happen to a franchise. Bill Simmons gives you lots of examples but a great local one was in 2002-2003 when the Raptors became almost unbeatable down the stretch to make the playoffs after Wince Carter was ruled out of the lineup with hurt feelings.

The Thrashers were left for dead after Ilya Kovalchuk was dealt to New Jersey and when they moved for Dustin Byfuglien this summer there was the expectation that Regular Season Buff would be a disappointment. Especially after they moved him to defence. As it turns out, Byfuglien is having kind of a good season 

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Dustin Byfuglien 34 11 22 33 8 35 4 0 5 132


But the real key of the team's success has been Ondrej Pavelec. He has been, to steal a turn of phrase, Pavelectric. More on him after the jump.

Starting Goalies courtesy of The Left Wing Lock:

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Jonas Gustavsson 17 903 4 9 44 2.92 444 400 .901 0
GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Ondrej Pavelec 22 1226 11 6 36 1.76 644 608 .944 2

Some interesting stats for Gustavsson:

  • Has a .926 save percentage in six games at the ACC this year
  • Has a .880 save percentage in four games against the Southeast division this year
  • Has a .914 save percentaage in two games on Mondays
  • Has a .923 save percentage at even strength which is good for 22nd among goalies with at least 10 appearances this year
  • Has a .824 save percentage on the penalty kill which is good for 41st among goalies with at least 10 appearances this year

His opponent is Ondrej Pavelec who is the same guy that went through one of the scarier episodes of this NHL season. Right now, the only thing scary about him are his numbers:

  • Has a .915 save percentage in two games on Mondays
  • Has a .950 save percentage at even strength which is good for 2nd among goalies with at least 10 appearances this year
  • Has a .947 save percentage on the penalty kill which is good for 17th among goalies with at least 10 appearances this year

Tonight's lineups courtesy of James Mirtle:

Leafs lineup

MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
Versteeg - Bozak - Kessel
Sjostrom - Brent - Armstrong
Lebda - Mitchell - Orr

Beauchemin - Phaneuf
Kaberle - Schenn
Gunnarsson - Komisarek

Gustavsson

Thrashers lineup (based on last game)

Stewart - Kane - Little
Peverley - Antropov - Ladd
Boulton - Slater - Thorburn
Burmistrov - Stapleton - Modin

Byfuglien - Enstrom
Bogosian - Oduya
Hainsey - Sopel

Pavelec

The big news is obviously this ridiculous move to get Brett Lebda on the wing. Of all of the options available to them this is the strangest. The knock on effect is that Nazem Kadri will be sitting for the second straight game. I know what initial reaction is/has been because I had the same one ("You don't know what you're doing!") but Wilson's explanation seems to make sense:

"He's not going down," Wilson said. "I'm using the next four days for him to get stronger and faster. In better shape and a lot stronger than he's shown in games. That's what part of this is for.

"Tampa did this a couple years ago with their young players. They play 10 games then sit out two or three and use the schedule to their advantage to get a little bit stronger and faster. And that was particularly the case with [Steve] Stamkos and you saw him from go from the beginning where he couldn't get anything done to being a better player at the end of the season and using that to springboard into last year and where he is now.

"We're going to try and do a similar project with Nazzy. He's got to get stronger. It's simple." 

It would be ahrd to argue that Kadri doesn't need more strength work. To my eye, this move is geared towards working on Kadri's development rather than the optics which would have had the team keep him in the lineup regardless. I assume there's more debate so have at it.

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