Carolina Hurricanes @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: CBC, SNO, SNW, SNP, NHLN, BSSO
The Carolina Hurricanes last played at home on December 28 against the Montréal Canadiens. The Hurricanes won by a score of 5-3 in regulation, and their current league record is 19-13-4 for a 0.583 Points %.
The Leafs last game was away on December 29 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which Toronto lost by a score of 6-5 in OT. The Leafs have a record of 17-9-7 for a 0.621 Points %.
The story of the Hurricanes season is goaltending, and Antti Raanta has been through the entire soap opera that Ilya Samsonov is now acting out. Raanta, who was a gently above average goalie last season, spent this season as the worst goalie in the NHL until he got a win on a shakily okay performance in his last outing and Samsonov did what he did. Raanta has allowed 10.5 goals above expected in 15 games, Samsonov 13.3.
The Hurricanes did the thing that satisfies emotionally, and waived Raanta and sent him to an AHL team where he played twice and was not reassuringly excellent, but not Jack Campbell disastrous either. They had to recall him, though because they had no choice. The waiving was foolish in the first place since their only replacement was Yaniv Perets who is a first year pro in the ECHL. He didn't actually play in the NHL, he just sat there while Pyotr Kochetkov was average (for a change) and the team in front of him laid down a clean winning game.
What the point of all that was beyond the coach's desire not to admit he had to play Raanta is beyond me. But the always going to happen recall happened, and Raanta was below average in his most recent game while the team put down a solid game in front of him and got the win.
The Leafs get Kochetkov tonight who has let in 46 goals on 42 expected in 19 games. If you've missed the news, Frederik Andersen has a blood clotting disorder, and has only recently been cleared to skate. He is not expected to return to play immediately, however.
The Hurricanes lead the NHL in five-on-five Corsi, and are third in Expected Goals. They have a poor shooting %, and all of that is bog-standard Hurricanes results. Their power play is a little weak, but they tend to score a lot more than expected there.
In other words, they are so good they can survive the worst team goaltending in the NHL. And they definitely seem to realize that they actually have to make up for their struggling goalies by playing their absolute best. Their very existence is a rebuke to the idea that great sins of the goalie absolve the small sins of the skaters.
Last Game (12/28) via Daily Faceoff
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Michael Bunting - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Seth Jarvis
Stefan Noesen - Jack Drury - Jesper Fast
Jaccob Slavin - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Dmitry Orlov - Jalen Chatfield
Pyotr Kochetkov - confirmed starter
Given that this game is a SEGABABA with travel, the Leafs might switch up the defender pairs a little. Jake McCabe got a little banged up last night, and Conor Timmins and William Lagesson are still on the roster.
Jones will start.
Standard lines as of the most recent game:
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson - Max Domi - Calle Järnkrok
Bobby McMann - David Kämpf - Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
Martin Jones - starter
The Hurricanes are a weird team. I don't think there is a single team in the NHL that has consistently played an offensive system like theirs. They are, like a lot of teams this season, getting to the net-front a little less, but they shoot almost entirely from the points and the perimeter. This is why they always have lower Expected Goals than Corsi, but they dominate in possession so much their quality shooting choices don't really hurt them much.
What this means is that they shoot through traffic. They pass low-to-high. The get the defenders turned around, and moving back to the points. Defensively, they just don't allow shots from anywhere. They have the lowest Corsi Against in the NHL, and allow on average 13 fewer shots (all shots, not SOG) than the Leafs do in 60 minutes of five-on-five. They are also fast, so if they take the puck back in their own end, they're gone.
Their only weakness is the goalie. And for a team with goaltending this bad to be in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference should scare the pants off the Leafs. Or you know, motivate them to try that playing their best defence in front of the questionable netminder thing.
This is hockey though, and you have to keep your pants on, and play every game like you're going to win it because you just might.
Go Leafs Go!