FanPost

The Great Stink: Toronto's 3rd Period Collapses. (And Why It's All Probably Jay McClement's Fault.)

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

New Leaf Owners Giving Randy Carlyle Notice?

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These Leafs 3rd period collapses are killing me.

By my count, they’ve given up a tying or go-ahead goal in the 3rd period of something like 17 games this year. And in 11 of those, they’ve either lost the game, or lost points.

Related. In early industrial London, the method of managing sewage was basically to throw shit into open pits, and then to shift it from place to place when the stench got too bad, with most of it eventually seeping down towards the Thames. Needless to say, cholera was a fairly frequent visitor. An even more frequent visitor was... a smell, which got worse, year on year, until the year 1858 actually came to be remembered in Britain as the year of "The Great Stink."

That Summer, the stink was so bad that Parliament could no longer sit. The Royal Family and the aristocrats [courageous souls all] fled, to their country estates. It took an engineer by the name of Sir Joseph Bazalgette to solve the problem, by building the modern world’s first great sewage collection network.

I’m sure you see the connection.

Two Great Stinks. And both emanating from our own ends.

We need a song to kick this Stinker off. And what could be more appropriate than a hit by The Vapors? After all, their lead guitarist, Edward Bazalgette, was the G-G-G-Grand-relative of Britain’s famous engineer. [Also worth noting: the song title – "Turning Japanese" – refers to masturbation, which is pretty much the central pre-occupation anyway for most of you jokers here at PPP.]

Ok. Let’s cut the chitter-chatter and get at ‘er. The one and only pressing issue for Leafs fans:

Who. Is. To. Blame. For. This. 3rd. Period. Shit?

Some people blame these collapses on Carlyle's 3rd period systems. His weak-ass forecheck. The team's failure to stand up at the blue-line. And that fricking defensive shell. Oh wait, apparently it’s now called Carlyle's "swarm" defence. Except not even David Suzuki has ever seen leaves "swarm" in nature. How do I know what Mr Suzuki has seen? Well – as a responsible blogger – I phoned Mr Suzuki this very morn for a quote on whether he’d ever seen swarming leaves. To which he replied, quote,

"No, I fucking well haven't. And certainly not at 4:30 in the fucking morning. Which it fucking well is. Out here in Vancouver. "

Seems Saint David’s got quite the potty mouth on him.

Anyway, he went on to say he has seen leaves "pile up in a corner," and seen leaves "swirl around" a yard, and even seen them "float about in complete chaos." Then he says, "Whoops! Or maybe I’m just remembering seeing Carlyle's Leafs in their own end!" And starts in laughing and singing some Canucks goal song.

Hate that guy.

Anyway, the thing Carlyle's 3rd Period critics most dislike about his systems is the absence of a good offence. They think we should crank up the attack in the 3rd, even when holding a lead.

"Best defence is a good offense," they say, quoting from some book they’ve never read.

"Tough for the other team to score when you’ve got the puck in their end," they pronounce, stroking the pathetic little man-child tufts twitching at the end of their extremely weak chins.

"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge John Scott," they throw in.

Frankly, given this quality of strategic advice, no wonder Randy Carlyle detests bloggers.

But, as we've been forced to watch more and more of these 3rd period collapses, we’ve grown tired of talking about systems, and shouting at Randy. Quite simply, you need something more tangible. And fortunately, there's a trusted and true analytic tool, used by generations of Leaf fans, that leaves us all with a good, solid, feeling in the gut when we use it.

We blame some guy.

Yeah, that fucking guy. HE’S the problem. In this case, "that fucking guy" being… Jay McClement. AKA "The Dude Who Is To Blame For These 3rd Period Collapses." Or at least, that’s what I’ve been increasingly hearing. Both here, and on Twitter.

Now, sometimes players get blamed by the fans, and rightfully so. I can think of two names I’m no longer allowed to even pronounce, but which rhyme with Febda and Foamisarek. Or, as the Chronicles of The Leaf Kings (14:31-44) put it,

"31 Yea verily, their suckethness did rise as a hot stink above the towers of the ACC. Worse even than the general Bad Smell of those Leaf teams, which was itself like unto a hog dumping his liquid mess upon the ice. 32 Anyways, these two d-men, their stink was taken as a personal assault unto the Lord’s nostrils. No, no. I mean, He SERIOUSLY did not take it well when the those two got ice-time. 33 And lo, the Lord said, 'OMG. I don't have to put up with this. Burkie! I don’t care if you have to eat salary, you gotta shift these chumps. Pronto." 34 But Burkie did not wish to trade the two chumps he had obtained at such great expense as UFA's, especially seeing as they had Grit. And a Stanley Cup ring. And so, Burkie sassed Him back, saying, "What am I gonna get for Lebda? Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Lord, nobody's stupid enough to take him off my hands." 35 And whoa, did the Lord did step on that nonsense some quick, saying, "SPEAK NOT THOSE NAMES!" 36 And Burkie did ask, "What'd I say? Mary and Joseph?" 37 And the Lord said, "No, you idiot. Him.... Febda. And.... you know... Foamisarek." 38 At which did Burkie resort to the palming of his face, and moaning unto himself. 39 Well. As you can imagine, that got right FURTHER up the Lord's nose, and He was some frigging wroth, saying angrily, "Til now I was just sore wrought with you, Burkie-My-Boyo. But now, I am also WROTH. And that means that from here on out, we're gonna keep shit simple. Either you move -3 and the other guy... ASAP... or I move this team someplace where they'll never even notice the smell. Oshawa mebbe. Or Markham. Yea, verily, Markham.' 40 And yea verily you shoulda seen it, cause Burkie mos def got his ass in gear, and sent -3 to Nashville right quick. And the kings of Nashville were fucking clueless, and did give us Franson in exchange. 41 At which news, 'LOL' laughed the Lord. 42 And then, He was all 'ROTFLMAO.' 43 And then, after wiping the tears from His eyes, the Lord did add, "Just kidding about Markham, Burkie. NFW those clowns ever get a team." 44 For He is a good and just Lord, and doth love a good PMD.

At other time though, we fans rip some poor bastard player a new one, and it turns out later that… dude wasn’t to blame at all. He just happened to hang his mug in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which is also an ancient tradition, what with scapegoating being Biblical as well.

Anyway. What we’re gonna do here is try Jay Mc in a court of statistical law, for his alleged 3rd period crimes.

But. Before we slice and dice him, we’re gonna give some airtime first to his fans. Cause... that’s only fair. Now, fan-wise, our boy Jay’s got 'em. Lots of ‘em. For starters, the guys who get paid big bucks on TV to talk hockey all love him. Plus, a large number of Average Joe fans.

Now, granted, most TV talking heads are idiots who never learned any of the letters that come after Cat, and most Leaf fans can't count past Banana, but let's let them make their pro-Jay case anyway. Hell, to be extra-fair, where they’re missing stats, I'll fill them in for them. Anyway, the pro-Jay crowd claims that:

  • Jay McClement wins ALL THE FACCE-OFFS! (Fact: He wins 54.6%.)
  • Wich is a lot more better then BOZERK OR KRUDRI OR THEM UDDER TOOLS. (Fact: Yes, yes it is. Calm down now, Average Jay Fan.)
  • And that's whut with him takin purdy much every Dzone face-off and NO FRACKING OZONE FACE-OFFS A TALL.(Fact: 49% to 21%. A nasty ratio, and much more than Holland or Kadri’s 34%/34% split.)
  • Shure, Jay don't scor much... BUT HE’S ALL MAN! (Fact: 5 points this year. 17 last year. So no, he doesn't. Score much.)
  • Plus… he got a +2 plus! (Fact: They've forgotten the all-caps here, but I'm sure they meant to shout this one, so.... "YES! A +2 PLUS!")
  • And that there's aginst tough competition! Hey you, you ther! College-Boy! (That’d be me they’re signalling.) Tellus how tough that ther competition of Jay's is? (Me: FORD TOUGH! RAM TOUGH! PRIUS TOUGH!) (Whoops.) (Fact: McClement does face the greatest gap between the quality of his line-mates and his competition.)
  • Plus, Jay Mc kills penalties. LIKE A TRUCK KILLS DEER! (Fact: He has more PK time than any Leaf.)

In light of these staggering statistics, you may find it shocking that JayMc has any detractors at all. Nonetheless… and apparently sourced from the 17th annual "Belleville Nit-Pickers With Small Penises" Convention… there are a significant number of self-proclaimed Leaf "fans" who regularly fill the Tweeter with their criticism of Mr McClement.

Flinging shit like how he ranks 236th of 239 regular NHL forwards in scoring, and how it is "common knowledge" that he ranks 239th (of 239) in Corsi this year, and how he was 278th (of 278) last year, etc.

So. You can all now surely see my dilemma in researching this piece. In essence, I’ve got stats-clowns to the left of me… arse-clowns to the right… and here I am… stuck in the middle… of the Leafs 2013-14 season…. with fucking Randy Carlyle listening to the oldies on K-Billy's Super Sounds of the 70's... and dancing around waving his shaver... and talking shit about the need to trim off a coupla... defensive mistakes. Oh shit.

WARNING.

THIS SONG IS SO NOT SAFE FOR WORK I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE IT. 2ND THOUGHT: ALTHOUGH IT JUST MAY INSPIRE YOU TO DO TO YOUR BOSS WHAT THE PRICK HAS ALWAYS DESERVED. CONCLUDING THOUGHT: SO WHAT I'M SAYING IS, THIS IS REALLY A GUT-CHECK SONG. IF I WERE YOU, I’D PROBABLY JUST FUCKING GO FOR IT.

Now, recently, there's been an upsurge in McClement hate, driven by a sense that Jay is not up the task of providing shut-down defence in the 3rd period. And in fact, that his increasing ice-time may be directly contributing to these collapses.

As one waggish young lad put it the other day, it is a "well-known fact" that when McClement is on the ice, the Leafs "consistently get filled in, possession-wise, which leads to goals against." And while we’ve been seeing "Leafs blow leads at an astonishing rate" lately, this can be linked to the fact that "McClement gets increased ice-time when protecting leads."

On top of this already damning damnation, the Leafs PK – led by McClement – has also now thrown a rod. Which means Jay’s on the ice as even more of the shivering mid-Winter puck flock migrate into the warmth of the Leaf Love-nest. (Take that, Bowen!)

And on TOP of what that's already on top of, apparently McClement has now taken to committing stupid, late-game, offensive-zone penalties. Maybe because he's over-tired, maybe because he's over-matched against 1st line competition, but his penalties sure aren’t helping stop the 3rd period stink-bombs.

The bottom-line with these critics is that the Leafs need to play Jay McClement less, and Centers like Peter Holland and Nazem Kadri more – guys who generate more offense, have higher Corsi ratios and keep the puck in the other end.

Now, before we get into the actual numbers, and the video, of Jay’s many errors, let me just say that… I get why Carlyle wants to play McClement. Quite simply, he’s better defensively than a Kadri or Holland or a Bozak (at least at this stage of their careers.)

McClement gives up a lot fewer goals; fewer shots against. Chances against and Corsi against; he faces enormously harder zone starts; and he goes out with weaker team-mates relative to his opposition.

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In fact, of the 18 Leafs with the most ice-time, McClement’s defensive numbers are the best - on goals against, shots, chances, etc. So, if we’re gonna be fair to the guy, we probably need to start by simply recognizing this.

And those essential features, for me, mean I likely want him on the ice when I’m ahead in the 3rd [or when we're tied and facing strong offensive opponents.] Hell, I even think there's a solid mathematical case for why we should do this, over playing somebody with a better Corsi. Which we’ll look into in a footnote, at bottom.

Anyway, other than his hard work and a pretty solid defensive game, there's really not much to love about Jay's game. Dude’s got no offence. Makes no big hits. Has no breakaway speed. No inspiring back story. Not pretty. Nada.

To test his lack of appeal, I just scanned down the entire Leaf roster, and by my count, Jay's only my 25th favourite Leaf. I mean, I like Bozak better. Hell, I like Colton Freaking Orr better. So I’m not writing this or arguing for him because he’s my cousin or shit like that. I'm just tired of running perfectly good hockey players out of Toronto. And that means I have to check what my eyes see… against the numbers say. Often. Because, shaming though it is, what I think I see and what actually is, are often two entirely different things. Simple as that.

Anyway, instead of firing more bad-tempered, half-assed, short-on-fact Tweets about this [for which, to my sparring partners, my apologies], I decided to go and... bloody well check the facts. I went to NHL.com [again] and looked at the video of McClement's 3rd period efforts. Then to BehindTheNet and ExtraSkater to see what the numbers said.

It took a few hours in all, but – once again – turned out to be quite enlightening. Obviously, such a review is only looking at goals scored, not at every shot and every shift. [Though if anyone can access ice-time by period and break this all down by shots etc. – hey groovy!] But just looking at the goals scored during the 3rd periods showed a lot about McClement, as I think you’ll agree.

Here were the methods I used.

  • I decided to look at the results for all the Leafs, since the only way criticism of McClement makes sense is if he’s worse than his teammates, right?
  • Similarly, I looked at all 42 games. Nothing wrong with looking at a more recent sub-set of games, but when you’re already fighting the Demon of Small Sample Sizes, best not to throw anything away.
  • I broke out 5v5 as well as PK goals against, for obvious reasons.
  • I looked just at 3rd period situations.
  • I took as "Close" situations times when the Leafs either held the lead or the game was tied when the other team scored.
  • By my count, 18 games saw 3rd period goals scored against the Leafs which either tied the score or took the lead, comprising 21 goals in total. [Because sometimes teams both tied & took the lead, etc.]
  • Then, to make sure I wasn’t being too narrow, I added in 8 more goals where the other team scored to either close to within 1 goal, or stretched their lead from 1 to 2 goals. i.e. These were important goals, bringing games into their reach, or putting them out of ours. Which brought out total to 29 goals.
  • Of these, 20 were scored at Even Strength, and 9 on the Power-play.

The key question I then asked was... who was on the ice (or in the penalty box) for these goals against?

20 EVEN-STRENGTH 3RD PERIOD GOALS AGAINST IN CLOSE GAMES - WHICH FORWARDS SUCKED HARDEST?

Let's start with the 20 ES goals against, and how the forwards did.

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What stands out here is that although McClement has been playing big 5v5 minutes during these close 3rd periods, and usually up against pretty strong competition, he has not been devoured.

At all.

To keep the math simple, his 5 goals against actually looks pretty commendable, given 20 scored in total against the Leafs during 5v5. e.g. For those complaining that he is seeing too much 3rd period ice-time (i.e. he’s likely seeing 30% to 40% of the ice-time), his 25% share of goals against is actually quite solid. No, it doesn’t make him the world's #1 shutdown center, but there's no way I can turn 5 goals against into a case for McClement being a central cause of the Leafs late game collapses.

Even if we zoom in only on the closest games – ones where the score was tied or the Leafs held just a 1 goal lead – he was only on for 5 of 16. Which is bang on where he should be, if the idea is that he’s helping to dial down the other teams’ big guns.

And again, to be fair, it’s important to compare this performance to that of the other forwards:

Mason Raymond has, plain and simple, given up twice as many goals during important moments as has Jay McClement. Our fave, Nik Kulemin, has played 11 games less than Jay (with 28% less ES minutes in all) and yet has given up 1 goal more already. In fact, Kulie’s given up 6 in just his last 18 games. JVR and Kessel have given up more than McClement, and Kadri the same number.

So. WHY has McClement begun to be perceived as failing at this task he was previously regarded as being quite good at?

Well… certainly, part of the answer is because a number of these goals against happened in a bunch. If you break out his 5 goals against, 3 in a rush of just 8 games – against Dallas, Pittsburgh and Phoenix. That’s certainly part of it. And that Pittsburgh goal came while he was covering Sidney Crosby, with 6:00 minutes left, which kind of helps it stick in the memory, right?

But you know who else was on the ice for all of those goals? Nik Kulemin. In fact, Kulemin was on the ice for an additional goal during that time, against Ottawa.

To me, these numbers make a pretty clear case. McClement hasn’t been overly at-fault for the 3rd period collapses stemming from 5v5 goals against.

Now, I’m aware that some of McClement’s critics will continue to disagree, and will search for additional reasons why he is at fault. And it’s not my place to say that these folks are trying to jam reality into a faulty, pre-existing narrative.

I’m just not gonna say that.

Rather, I say to them, with all due respect, "Give your head a fucking shake, people. You don't live or die with how Jay Fucking McClement performs. Facts are facts, and they’re no skin off your ass. I don't like McClement’s boring face either. Hell, Jerry D'Amigo looks way cooler. But it’s time to just. let. it. the. fuck. go."

Ok. Rather than feed you all more numbers and letters in various combinations, I know you’d prefer to take a break with some visual evidence. So here are 3 of Jay’s 5 relevant goals against. You can look at em, and weigh precisely how much blame he should get. [Don't bother with the other 2, because they’re really not his fault. e.g. Remember Ovechkin's weird one-hop-blast against Bernier? That, plus one other.]

Anyway, in all 3 of these goals, McClement clearly has some share in the blame. Against Columbus, Game #11, he probably should have been checking Gaborik more closely. Yes, Bolland misses the pass-put, and Ranger has the puck bounce off him, so not totally Jay's fault, but some certainly is.

Against Dallas, Game #29, [Edited following proper shift info from Hope_Smoke, thanks] As the first man on during a line-change, McClement actually checks the puck away from Stars players twice in the neutral zone, at which point the remaining wingers run for the bench. But the puck bounces to a Star, so Jay gives chase. The defensive pairing [who took a lot of media heat after a somewhat unfair screen-grab was posted] was actually facing a 3-2 or 4-2 on their side, and obviously thought the 3 blue sweaters on the other side had Cole covered. All of which combined to make McClement look REALLY bad when he failed to catch Cole and gave up a goal. However, while Jay definitely gets a big chunk of the blame here, I think the fact of a badly-timed line change and that Jay twice knocked the puck away and then it bounced to Stars has to ease the blame down a notch or so. Still, he has to own a lot of this.

Against Pittsburgh, he clearly thought Gardiner's clearance would make it out, but it didn't, and some guy named Crosby scored. Some have blamed Gardiner, some blamed Cham Chimmons thought maybe Kulemin shared in the blame, but most people just blamed Jay. It was easier. And... I can see that. I think he actually has to wear some of this, just not all.

Thing is, that’s just 5 goals out of 20 where he’s even on the ice, and only 3 where he has any active role at all. That’s McClement's total on-ice contribution to the heap of Even Strength goals the Leafs have given up during their 3rd Period Big Stinks.

So how the hell can I blame this shit-fest on Jay?

And while I’m not gonna go over everybody else’s mistakes, it was sortof educational, actually taking the time to look at all those goals in a row, albeit a bit Keystone Kops at times.

Dion chasing a Coyote behind his net… Kessel fires directly into the Wild with this pass… Ranger famously trying to pinch some L.A. ass…. Cody finding some Oiler shin pads he wants to drill… Bernier going all Carolina on my mindJake and Kulie both falling asleep against Ottawa… JVR cleverly managing to avoid catching any lumbering Bruins at all during his glide back home against Boston... and MayRay periodically seeming to lose the ability to look behind him. As in New York. And Edmonton. etc.

Which is a way of saying that a whole lot of lousy defensive play, spread about as widely across the Leafs team as shit was once strewn about London, has gone into creating those 20 goals against.

But right now, with just this in hand, I can find neither the numbers, nor the film, that says McClement is somehow the main problem at Even Strength.

9 POWER-PLAY 3RD PERIOD GOALS AGAINST IN CLOSE GAMES - WHICH FORWARDS FLAILED?

Ok, so maybe you’re still thinking that McClement is to blame, but that it’s probably because of how he’s done on the PK. After all, he gets far more ice-time on the PK than any other Leaf forward, and it’s been doing noticeably worse, right?

Well, in my review, I found 9 power-play goals against that came during our key 3rd period situations.

But McClement was only on ice for 3 of them. To compare, Raymond was also on for 3 against; Smith, Smithson and Kulemin were on for 2 each; JVR for 1; and so on. And here his huge PK minutes now swings against the case that he’s at fault, right? Because again, facts is facts, and McClement is playing more minutes on the PK than Raymond, Kulemin and Smith combined.

So again, stats-wise, how can I reasonably blame him as the central problem in these 3rd period collapses?

3 out of 9 just plain does not = suck.

HOWEVER! As a personal show of good faith, and of my commitment to the forces of attacking Jay McClement, I hereby state my willingness to state, on the public record here, and in a signed affidavit if need be, that I (Not Norm Ullman) did in fact witness Jay McClement huffing paint-thinner peanut butter on the bench between shifts this season, and that I (blah blah blah) did in fact, sell it to him.

And also, that we partied, naked and cracked out of our fucking gourds, with the Mayor and his entire family on the Danforth earlier this Summer. [Amazing how this is now a plausible statement to make in Toronto, eh?]

However. McClement has still played pretty well during our 3rd period PK's. Facts is facts.

STUPID PENALTIES TAKEN DURING 3RD PERIODS IN CLOSE GAMES - WHICH FORWARDS ARE BONE-HEADS?

We got one last kick at McClement’s can. His dumb penalties. I’ll bet he’s actually been IN THE BOX for some of them 9 PK goals, right? Because BOOM! Right? Cause... McClement has a shit-load of minor penalties this year – 10 already.

The only problem being that just 2 of those came in the 3rd period, and only one led to a goal.

Which means that mental picture people now have of McClement taking stupid penalties late in the game, because he supposedly can't keep up with those 1st line guys, or because he's too tired?

Well, they should probably erase it.

Because his single major sin was tripping Tyler Seguin late against Dallas, where they scored on the PP. But we remember it because it was Seguin, whom we all (rightfully) hate; and also because it came right after that Cole goal that McClement was involved in.

And so, we remember it. Same as we remembered the Crosby goal. And eventually, when people started back in with the McClement-sucks-so-hard storyline again, it gained more traction.

But I’d like to remind you that, even when it comes to stupid 3rd period penalties, it turns out that McClement is far from the team’s worst offender. And you may not like finding out who is.

Like… JVR, who has racked up 3 in close games. And Kadri and Kulemin, who have 2, like McClement, as do Clarkson and Smithson.

ALL 3RD PERIOD GOALS AGAINST & PENALTIES TAKEN IN CLOSE GAMES - WHICH FORWARDS TO BLAME!

Time for a big picture summary: 18 times the Leafs have given up key goals in the 3rd, with 29 goals scored against, 20 during 5v5, plus 9 on the PK, and with a batch of dumb 3rd period penalties along the way. So. Herewith, our leading Big Stink suspects:

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Now, out of that - and trying to take into consideration each player’s ice-time 5v5, PK role, line-mates and competition – the only major "surprising" conclusions that jump out are that maybe we shouldn't lean too hard on Mason Raymond as a shut-down guy; and I’d keep anybody with "Smith" in their name the hell off the penalty-kill.

But even looking at all 3 categories, there is no way I see this data saying that Jay McClement is at the core of the problem. 29 actual goals have gone in the Leaf net during these crucial parts of the 3rd period. And he's been on the ice for 8. That's 28% of the goals against, folks. And he’s only taken 13% of the badly-timed 3rd period penalties. This from a guy likely seeing 30%-40% of the ice-time in close 3rd period games this year.

I pronounce Jay McClement… not guilty.

He may not be a hockey-playing wizard, and he may not generate much offence, and he may not ultimately even be that great a shut-down player. But he’s not the big cause of our collapses.

So I think we maybe need to adjust our sets a bit here. Maybe even admit to a bit of Old Testament-style scapegoating here. Yes, we can shove some of the blame onto the fact that McClement was associated with high profile goals, like Crosby, and penalties, like against Seguin.

But let’s also admit that it’s in part because he’s just plain not one of our favourites.

Look. I love Kulie, you love Kulie. But here’s the math. These two are, this year, each other's most frequent line-mate. Except that, while playing 17 games fewer than McClement (and with 28% less overall ES ice-time and 47% less PK-time) Kulemin has been on-ice for 1 more ES goal against in our 3rd periods, 1 less PK goal against, and been called for just as many 3rd period penalties. And yes, ALL of Kulie’s goals against have come in the last 20 games, when the collapses have been concentrated.

Now, am I blaming Kulie? Hell no. Because I don’t think many of those goals were actually his fault. What I’m saying is that our eye has been drawn more to McClement – when looking for someone to blame defensively – than to Kulemin. Simply because we like Kulie more.

Same with Mason Raymond and JVR. MayRay has 13 of these 3rd period goals against versus 8 for McClement. And JVR has more goals against during 5v5, and he takes more dumb penalties.

Why don’t we see them as responsible for the collapses? Because we value them for other reasons. And we like them for other reasons. And so… we don’t see them, because we don’t want to.

3RD PERIOD GOALS AGAINST IN CLOSE GAMES - HOW THE GOALIES & D-MEN DID.

Ok, let’s take a brief glance at how the goalies and D-men did during these situations. I’ll give you a big ole juicy result first, so you all can fight about it with your friends. Here:

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Now, logically, since Reimer has given up a lot more goals during blow-outs, it’s probably not surprising that Bernier is giving up more during close games, right? So… no biggie. Just... luck of the draw.

Then again, another way to look at it would be to see that 22 to 7 gap and say, "Holy shit! Bernier’s a choker! Bernier’s a choker! Reimer is a God, and feels no pressure!"

I’ll leave the decision as to which interpretation to go with to you.

And here are the totals on D.

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Now, you're about to hear something from me that you've probably never heard before. "Paul Ranger has been on-ice for the largest number of even-strength goals against."

There. I said it.

However, with 8 for him and 7 for Cody and 6 each for Dion, Gunnar and Rielly, it’s actually reasonably close. More noteworthy to me is the fact that Jake Gardiner has only been on-ice for 3 such goals against. Which I absolutely would not have predicted. So either he's better at defence than we think... or he's been lucky... or Carlyle's been sitting him a lot during these stages of games.

Turning to how well our D-men do during late-game PK situations, remember how McClement plays the most minutes of any Leaf and has 3 goals against? Well… Dion and Gunnar were on ice for 5 and 6 goals against. Truthfully, that’s really not very good. At all. [And perhaps builds the case further that Ranger – whose numbers continue to run miles ahead of any Leaf on the PK – should maybe be playing more here.]

Last item. Who on the D side do you think is taking those bad 3rd period penalties we're always killing? Now, certain media folk originally suggested it was Paul Ranger. Because... he's slow.

Except that, when you actually look at the evidence, and break penalties down by period, the distribution of Close Game 3rd period penalties shows Ranger to have just the 1 (one.) The problem for Ranger, like McClement, is that it was highly visible, and led to the OT loss against Buffalo. Which started the Ranger=Slow=Bad-Penalty meme.

Reality is, however, that it is Dion who has taken far and away the most such penalties, with 4 [four.]

Below: Leaf starting defence corps, circa 2013-14.

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Correction: Those are actually London sewer flushers, circa 1883-84. My bad.

So, all in all, across all positions, do we have a Great 3rd Period Stinker?

Maybe Dion with his15 black marks? Raymond with his 13? Gunnar with 13? Or Ranger’s 12 or JVR’s 11? Or Kulie with his 10 in so few gams? Or even… whisper this… Bernier with his 22, including that weird Carolina brain cramp? Or is it to be Jay McClement, because… Crosby! And Seguin!

Tough call. Cast your vote now. Who is to blame?

For me, I guess all this has led me back to the conclusion that the problem is more about systems than it is personnel. I mean, sure, we likely will need some personnel changes (after we change coaches, please.) And sure, we’ll end up using our players, including Jay McClement, differently under those different systems.

But has it been his play that has failed the Leafs in these games? Not so much. Has he shown that he can’t check the other teams’ big lines? I’m not seeing that. Is he exhausted and taking bad penalties all the time in the 3rd? Come on.

McClement is basically a reasonably capable hockey player doing a pretty good job of a thankless job, and under frigging tough circumstances. And as such, I think it’s time Jay got a promotion.

To become my 24th favourite Leaf.

After all, fuck Colton Orr. Dude doesn't even throw down anymore. He can ride the pine for a while as only my 25th favourite Leaf.

Meanwhile, Go Jay!

And yes. This song is relevant. Because it's early ZZ Top.

Footnote: Some people seem to have become quite taken by the argument that it makes more sense to play guys who have a better "ratio" of offence to defence [whether calculated as goals for/against or shots for/against or as a Corsi ratio], even while protecting a 3rd period lead. The idea – as they have presented it – is that the greater offence from these players will "more than balance out" the loss of some defence.

Like I say though… I’ve got problems with the math here. Walk through this with me, ok?

Let’s start with the classic case where the Leafs hold a 1-goal lead, and it’s late in the 3rd. At that point, the "play our offensive guys" argument runs smack into the problem that even if our guys score a 2nd goal, this is worth almost nothing to us, in terms of boosting the probability that we pick up the win. Basically, whether it’s 3-1 or 2-1, we win, and get the same points. Whereas if we give up a goal, the game falls back into a 2-2 tie, and the odds are much greater that we lose a point [when we got to OT or a Shoot-Out.]

Now, since the major proponents of this argument like to argue in Corsi terms, here it is again. Take our 2 guys. One has a net Corsi of +30, consisting of him taking 60 shots per 60 minutes of ice-time, but giving up 30. Let’s call him Mikhail Fabulovski. [Likely from Belorussia.] One the other hand, our guy takes 0 shots per 60 minutes [no offence at all], but gives up just 10 shots against [and thus, has a Corsi of -10.] We’ll call him Dirty McDishwater. [From Winnipeg, most likely.]

Now, if you send each of them out in 60 games, each time protecting a 1 goal lead, each time playing the last minute of a game [and assuming a 10% Sh% for both teams here], then the math says that while Fabulovski wins 6 games by two goals, and holds the 1-goal lead 51 times, he also gives up 30 shots against, which means 3 goals against. This costs us the lead 3 times. Net result? 57 victories, 3 ties. Whereas McDishwater's team sees him take no shots, so no goals for, and thus, 0 wins by 2 goals. But the 10 shots against results in only the 1 goal against. And thus, only 1 game falls back into a tie. Result? 59 victories, 1 tie.

So in terms of holding the lead late, in close games – take the guy who gives up fewer shots against, even if his Corsi sucks. And his name is McDishwater.

Now. This same math turns in exactly the opposite direction when the Leafs are down a goal late in a game. In those situations, you absolutely send out a Kessel over a McClement… or a Kadri or a Holland… if you’re in that last minute pressing for a tying goal.

In short, given the difference in game situations and scores, there are times when a player's absolute defensive or offensive capabilities become the relevant variable – not his overall plus/minus or Corsi ratio.

That’s the math against any too-strong case for playing offensive guys over defensive guys late in these games. But. We’ve only been looking at situations where you’re trying to hold a lead for 1 minute. The problem for Carlyle comes when you try to hold a lead earlier and earlier in the 3rd period. Basically, the longer the time involved, the more the math shifts against you.

Why? Well, the longer you have to hold the lead, the more you have to roll 2 and then 3 and then maybe even 4 lines, just to avoid exhaustion. Which means that you have to play everyone, basically. Yes, the math still says you should be maximizing the ice-time for the best defensive guys – and minimizing it for the weakest. But in real-life, you’re needing all hands on deck.

And this – to swing the argument back in Randy’s favour – means that even your best offensive players need to be able to play defence. It’s no good shouting that "their offensive abilities outweigh the need to become better at defence." In many cases, a player like Kessel or Kadri or Lupul will have the offensive skills to get a lead early. But at that point, the math says they’re more likely to be on the ice for a goal against than for another goal for. So, they have to be able to protect it. And it’s no good talking about how they gave the team the lead already, or how their offence somehow still outweighs their defence – they just plain-ass need to be able to shut the other team down and not make mistakes.

And at which point I would refer people back to that chart showing JVR, Kessel and Kadri’s numbers of ES goals against, and note that they need to be able to shut these goals down just as much as McClement.

Which is why Randy may actually be justified in clamping the hell down on these guys for not playing defence. They’re blowing their own leads.

Ok. That’s odd. A guy on PPP agreeing with Carlyle on something. Best end this discussion right here.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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