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Game Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers

In which the Leafs hopefully keep Aleksander Barkov from justifying his big new contract.

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

MAPLE LEAFS (17-20-9) at PANTHERS (28-15-5)




SBN: Litterboxcats

Some teams have draft busts from the 2013 draft, and other teams don't. Yesterday, the Florida Panthers signed 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov to a six-year extension worth an average of $5.9 million per season. Drafted second overall (in the same class in which Jonathan Drouin was drafted third), Barkov has met Panthers' expectations with 12G/18A this season, good for third on the team in scoring. With any luck, this means he partied hard last night and will play like crap, right?

James Reimer will get his fourth start in a row, and Roberto Luongo will get his third in a row. Luongo is fresh from defeating the two Stanley Cup Finals teams on back-to-back nights in ridiculous blow-out games. He completely shut out the Blackhawks 4-0, and his team chased Tampa Bay backup Andrei Vasilevskiy from the net to end the Bolts 5-2.

The Cats snapped a four-game skid that somehow coincided exactly with star Aaron Ekblad's absence from the lineup (out with an upper-body injury that looked a lot like a concussion for four games). How different were the Florida Panthers with Ekblad out of the game? Their Seashells/60 took an enormous hit, let me tell you.

Comparing the two teams:

Toronto Florida
Record 17-20-9 28-15-5
Division Rank 7th Atlantic 1st Atlantic
Conference 14th East 2nd East
League 27th overall 6th overall
Top Scorer Leo Komarov 16G Jaromir Jagr 15G
Top Points Leo Komarov 31pts Jonathan Huberdeau 34pts
Top Goalie James Reimer .937sv% Roberto Luongo .930sv%

Are the Florida Panthers riding PDO?

Yes. But. A writer at Litterboxcats explains that maybe there's more to the Cats' success than their looks:

Let's start with this- the major concern the analytics folks have with the Panthers is that the differential in shots-for and shots-against is large. As of this writing, the Panthers are 15th in the league in shots-against and 28th in the league in shots-for. That results in terrible Corsi and Fenwick ratings (which at their root are shot differential measurements). Stanley Cup contenders normally have very good Corsi and Fenwick ratings. (...)

The Cats did boast the league's top save percentage after the Vancouver game, with a .928 shared between Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya. That high save percentage leads to an above average PDO (102.6), good for 2nd best in the league. High PDO's can not normally be maintained and fall back to the average.

What it looks like on a few stats is that the Panthers give up a league average number of shots-against, have tops in the league goaltending, barely ever possess the puck on offense- which results in no shots-for, and get lucky on the few shots they do take to score their goals. The reality is a lot more complicated than that.

The Panthers are 3rd in the league in goal differential, having scored 113 goals, while only giving up 91 (+22 differential for those weak in math). The company they are keeping in that category is excellent, as they are surrounded by Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.

[You can go argue with the author over here.]

Are Panthers riding their goaltenders?

Probably. But. Another author at Litterboxcats explains that a lot of teams needs elite goaltending to get ahead in standings. Case in point, Habs without Price. [Er, what?] You can go argue with that person over here.

Will the Leafs players be tougher than Andrew Shaw?

I mean, the guy swallowed two of his own teeth last time he faced the Panthers.


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith
Quinton Howden - Nick Bjugstad - Logan Shaw
Shawn Thornton - Derek MacKenzie - Corban Knight

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad
Dmitry Kulikov - Erik Gudbranson
Steve Kampfer - Alex Petrovic

George Richards@GeorgeRichards
Brandon Pirri out of #FlaPanthers lineup for third consecutive night


Nick Spaling draws back into the lineup, and Leivo sits.

Shawn Matthias - Tyler Bozak - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Joffrey Lupul - Peter Holland - Nick Spaling
Daniel Winnik - Byron Froese - Rich Clune

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf
Martin Marincin - Roman Polak

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier

Injured: James van Riemsdyk (foot), Stephane Robidas (lower body), Nathan Horton (nack/back)
Scratched: Frank Corrado, Brad Boyes, Josh Leivo

Yesterday's PP units:

Matthias-Bozak-Parenteau-Rielly-Phaneuf, Lupul-Kadri-Holland-Komarov-Gardiner

Bromance Alert

Aleksander Barkov@Barkovsasha95
@KevinSpacey thanks 4 the good luck I'm in for 6 more years noon presser tomorrow @LKomarov your invited...Thanks @FlaPanthers @Dougielarge
Leo Komarov@LKomarov
@Barkovsasha95 @KevinSpacey can't make it i will congratulate you komarov style 2morrow, congrats buddy:facepunch: #headsup #seeyouinmyhockeyschool