Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators: 8:00 p.m.
Watch on: TSN4, TVAS, Fox-Sports Tennesee
Opponent’s site: On the Forecheck
So, you fired your coach, did you, Nashville? And then you hired the guy who the other team just fired. How’s that working out for you?
The Nashville Predators fired head coach Peter Laviolette on January 6, and at that time the two goalies for the Predators were combined for one of the worst records in the NHL, no matter how you sliced it. They were out of a playoff spot, and well, they still are, so John Hynes hasn’t worked any miracles.
The Predators have 51 points in 47 games and are sixth in line for the two wild card spots in the west, and last place in the Central Division. This is a team that has been considered a cup contender more often than not lately, so to say they’ve come unglued is an understatement. And the first place to point the finger is indeed at those two goalies. They both have season records by Save % Over Expected worse than Michael Hutchinson.
In the small handfull of games since Hynes took over, the Predators have a good five-on-five save %, and a mediocre all-situations one. Would you like to know which has the worst percentage of any sort over that period? No? Well, it might put paid to the idea that the coach should get the credit or the blame for the goalie. (Okay, it’s us, the Leafs are last.)
One thing the new guy behind the Preds bench has done is get their offence cooking at something a little over tepid. Or maybe he’s just standing there in a suit, and the difference is all strength of schedule, randomness or the players just happy the old guy is gone. You can’t tell.
But on the whole season, the Predators have mixed up some very tepid pace of Expected Goals For with an Expected Goals Against number that is indistinguishable from the Leafs. You never want to be bad defensively just when you’ve paid your top defender $9 million, and yet, the Preds have managed to be, like the Leafs, on the wrong side of average, if not actually bad.
Maple Leafs Lines
from Sunday’s practice
Alexander Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Pierre Engvall - Kasperi Kapanen
Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Jason Spezza
Extras: Dmytro Timashov, Tyler Gaudet
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Tyson Barrie
Rasmus Sandin - Cody Ceci
Extra: Martin Marincin
Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - Austin Watson
Filip Forsberg - Matt Duchene - Mikael Granlund
Rocco Grimaldi - Nick Bonino - Viktor Arvidsson
Colin Blackwell - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Roman Josi - Yannick Weber
Mattias Ekholm - Dante Fabbro
Dan Hamhuis - Matt Irwin
Jarnkrok-Johansen-Watson— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 27, 2020
Extras: Sissons (IR), Trenin, Tinordi
Pekka Rinne is expected to start against the Maple Leafs.
Toronto will see the return of Jake Muzzin, who took his foot out for a spin with the Marlies for one game and looked totally fine. More than fine in that AHL game was Trevor Moore, who was telegraphing “ready to play”. So was Timothy Liljegren, in my opinion, but the Leafs don’t care what I think.
Jake Muzzin back on the ice will take a lot of pressure off of Travis Dermott, who has been okay playing over his head, but could do with a chance to have someone better than him on the left side.
Even with the imminent return of Muzzin, the Leafs chose to keep Sandin on the roster over the bye week, so it’s Marincin who is odd man out on defence. With Morgan Rielly and Ilya Mikheyev still on LTIR, this is a full 23-man roster.
In their last few games, while the goaltending has been appalling, the skaters have been all over the map. They’ve dumped out a 38% Expected Goals (All-Situations) against the poor-quality Edmonton Oilers, loudly outplayed a 50-50 Corsi with Expected Goals percentages around 60 against the Jets, the Islanders and the Devils. And they also finished with 61% in a Pyrrhic victory against the Panthers after starting the game looking like they were still on a sailboat somewhere. Then there was the barely over 50 performances against the lower-ranked Flames and that dreadful performance vs Chicago.
This team is so hard to characterize right now. But just looking at their Expected Goals isn’t telling the full story. It’s easy to roll up a 60 when you’ve given the game away in the first 10 minutes, and they’ve done that more than once. It’s hard to feel, unless you’re comfortable just blaming the goalie, that this team acts like they plan to win the game each night for all three periods. Another way to put it is that, sometimes, even a mediocre to bad team can get the Leafs spinning in circles and can take a win in the space of ten minutes of concerted effort.
First it was the games before Christmas, and what do you expect? Then is was the games after, and they were rusty, and then it was New Year’s, and then it was Florida after some days off, and now it’s the first game after a bye week. Should we write the excuse headline now?
Bad Goalie Blows the Game as the Leafs are Lethargic and Indifferent for the First Period
Or could we just this one time feel like no matter the outcome, everyone played well? I’d like that. Let’s try that.