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[Pre-season Preview] Ottawa Senators vs Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Marincin on the bubble?

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What’s the point of this game? There’s jobs on the line, and maybe Martin Marincin’s is one of them.

NHL: Preseason-Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators
A few shots were saved last night. Very few.
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs: Pre-season Game 2

Time: 7:30 PM Eastern Time

Location: ACC

Broadcast/Streaming: TSN4 and TSN5, Rogers NHL Live in Canada

Opponent SBNation Site:

Silver Seven Sens Check out their recap of last night’s game for a happier perspective on the proceedings. Or ours for a "well, at least Dermott was good" perspective.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines (from today’s skate)

Marleau-Kadri-Komarov
JvR-Bozak-Marner
Johnsson-Smith-Grundstrom
Rychel-Greening-Trevor Moore
Marchment, Gauthier

Defence Pairings (from today’s skate )

Gardiner-Borgman
Marincin-LoVerde
Valiev-Holl
Nielsen-Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen
Kasimir Kaskisuo

Ottawa Senators Lines

We’ll update them when we know


What’s better here than yesterday’s group?

What isn’t might be a better question. The goaltending is better until it isn’t, assuming Andersen and Kaskisuo split the game. There’s two real forward lines and only two fourth lines, instead of three like yesterday.

And then there’s the defence. Considering Gardiner and Zaitsev haven’t just met and neither of them was still playing hockey in June, they might be better out of the gate than Rielly and Hainsey.

What’s the point?

It’s cool to be too cool for exhibition games, but they are necessary. Are there too many? Likely, but one or two isn’t enough either.

For tonight, your job is to watch Andreas Borgman and see what you think of him. You can watch new guy forward, too, but there are no forwads in this lineup looking for jobs, and Borgman is the only defender with a chance.

Check out Martin Marincin too. Yesterday on Leafs Lunch, Bob McKenzie talked about Marincin and termed it “fish or cut bait time” for the love-him-or-hate-him defender.

The Leafs Nation did an exhaustive story on Marincin that covers eveything from how cognitive bias works (the ‘big mistake’ theory of why the eye-test fails you) and how Marincin has all the Corsis line up correctly and also how he does at zone entries.

McKenzie put it this way (paraphrasing): Babcock must like him, or he wouldn’t be around still. He must see some fundamentals in his game that makes him worth trying to develop into a true NHL defenceman. The opinion put forward by people who agree with the TLN article is that Marincin drives play and a coach just has to live with the weird stuff he does.

I disagree.

I don’t discount that Marinicin drives play: that is, that given the way Babcock has used him, he contributes to the Leafs having the puck and getting in the offensive zone very well. I don’t need the lessons on cognitive bias and big mistakes either, but here’s what I think. Sit down for this. Driving play is not the same thing as defending. Driving play while being crap at defending is a team-wide problem that is why the Leafs were not actually ever good last season.

Low Corsi Against is not the same thing as being a good defenceman in the defensive zone. Leo Komarov had garbage Corsi Against last year. He made his linemates worse at driving play. But I don’t discount his quality defensive play. MarMar is the inverse of Komarov, and his troubles are what he does once he is in the defensive zone. Let’s just look for a moment at last night’s game, which he wasn’t in:

If you’re not used to heat maps, the darker the colour the more shots happened in that spot. This is five-on-five only. So, the Sens slid right up to the goalie’s glove hand and got off shots galore. And three goals from there. Meanwhile, the Leafs drove play like champs in this game with an adjusted CF% of 59%.

Driving play =/= defending. I mean, you want it, it’s crucial to winning, and let’s be clear here, I’m not making a Corsi doesn’t matter argument. But a good CF% is not what keeps the shots looking like they do over there on the Leafs side, where they don’t seem to know where the net is and they wailed from the point more than they did anything else. Is that defensive skill of the Sens or lack of forward skill by the Leafs? Both likely.

So what does this have to do with Marincin? I, and others, see in him a player who drives play great, albeit not against the toughest competition, but his flaws are daggers. He decides to just chip it up the boards and out when the game is tied. He can’t shove the play to the outside when the Leafs get hemmed in. He makes Jake Mistakes like he invented them and Jake stole the idea. His risk assessment is terrible. His game management (picking your moments to just chip it out) is abysmal.

So watch Marincin, not for his big mistakes that cause huge problems, but for the little ones he gets away with. Watch him and decide if the Leafs should just live with his weaknesses in exchange for the driving of play. Or not.

Fish or cut bait time. There’s a long queue of lefty defenders behind him who want his job.