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Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators; the return of Auston Matthews

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It’s a battle of red versus blue.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators
We shall always remember that it was the Senators that taught Matthews how boring goal celebrations get by number four or so.
Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators: Game 40

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: The outskirts of our nation’s capital.

Broadcast/Streaming: Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, City, TVAS2, streaming prepaid by your tax dollars in Canada from CBC.ca

Opponent SBNation Site: Silver Sevens

And that’s very true. If you look at where the Leafs shoot the puck from, it’s deep in.

Ahhhhh. It’s a huge red stain! Relax, red is good on this graphic. The darker the red the more above league average the Leafs are at shooting from that spot. And aside from the left point, they do almost all of their shooting from the slot and the inside edge of the faceoff dots.

If you cast your mind back a few years to the dawn of serious research into shot location, you will realize that the giant red blog is in the high- and medium-danger area, represented on this graphic with pink and yellow. The low-danger area is everywhere else.

So the Leafs shoot mostly from the high and medium danger zones. Which isn’t news, but the level to which they do that relative to league average is an impressive deep, dark red.

Now the Senators are a strange, strange team. They are perhaps the only team other than the New York Islanders where the historical determiner of the offensive power is which defence pair is on the ice. If it ain’t Karlsson, it ain’t scoring time.

Travis Yost examines the choice by Guy Boucher to slice some minutes off of Karlsson’s ice time and put it on his second, more defensive pair. Yost doesn’t think it works:

The thing to note here is that Karlsson/Methot Corsi% has plummeted in the new system, to the point that the Sens are actually better from a shot advantage standpoint when they are off the ice. A second note: while the goal differential seems fantastic, it’s almost exclusively goaltender driven. Ottawa goaltenders have stopped 94.5 per cent of shots with the Karlsson/Methot pairing together this year, which is impossibly high. Their four-year SV% at 5-on-5 before this year was, as you might have guessed, right around league average (92.5 per cent).

He also doesn’t think Ceci-Phaneuf are very good defensively. No? Phaneuf, not really all that hot at defence? Amazing.

But there’s more to defence than shot counting. So for fun, let’s look at where and how well, the Senators suppress shots in their own zone.

Blobs! Blue blobs! Yes, now there’s blue in the middle. And if you’re a Sens fan, that’s really good. This graphic is upside down relative to the other one, and the net is on the bottom. So what you are seeing is that the Sens allow very few shots in that danger zone and when they do, they are at a low rate compared to the league average. Imagine that dark red blob meeting a cool blue dampening field and you’ve got the idea.

Note the red, slightly above average shot concentration allowed right at the goalie’s stick hand. That seems like a place you might find Auston Matthews or Connor Brown. Note also the higher than average low-danger areas where the Sens do allow a lot more shots than average.

So while the shot rates might not look so good for the Sens right now, and the coach’s usage is questionable, they do have almost enough blue to wipe out the giant red blob of Leafs offence.

I hope you learned a lot here because you will be tested on it after the lineups.

Toronto Maple Leafs

(The standard configuration)

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Garret Sparks

Ottawa Senators

(From the most recent game)

Forward Lines

Dzingel-Turris-Ryan

Smith-Brassard-Stone

Hoffman-Pageau-Pyatt

Kelly-Lazar-Neil

Defence Pairings

Methot-Karlsson

Phaneuf-Ceci

Borowiecki-Wideman

Goaltenders

Condon

O’Connor


You actually aren’t going to be tested. Curtis McElhinney is. And there’s an interesting quirk about McE, the new guy in blue and white for the Leafs, and your starter tonight. He has a ridiculously high low-danger save percentage in his seven games this year. In fact, it is the highest ever recorded in a season by a goalie who played more than one or two games in the last three and a half years.

If McE keeps that up for his first Leafs start, he will be facing an Ottawa team that shoots in a way nearly the reverse of the Leafs. They shoot a lot from low danger areas, and their shot rate in the slot is much lower than league average. He will look fantastic! And anything the Senators do manage to get in close on him—they play around the net too, just not as much as the Leafs—won’t look like a bad goal. If that is, he keeps up his very small sample of recent game performance.

At the other end of the rink, the Senators need a stand on your head performance from whoever they have in for the night. The red blob is coming, and it shows no mercy!

UPDATED

Yeah, so never mind all that. McElhinney is reported to be injured, Garret Sparks is on the roster, who is in net is unknown.

UPDATED AGAIN!

Never mind the never minding.

So back to the guy with the worse NHL record last year. Yes, I do mean worse than Sparks.