St. Louis Blues @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: TSN4, BSMW
The Leafs last game was away on February 10 against the Ottawa Senators, which Toronto lost by a score of 5-4 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 26-16-8 for a 0.600 Points %.
The St. Louis Blues last played away on February 11 against the Montréal Canadiens. The Blues won by a score of 7-2 in regulation, and their current league record is 28-21-2 for a 0.569 Points %.
Back in the early part of the season, the Blues looked hopeless. They fired Craig Berube – a man who was there when Jordan Binnington got the nickname Winnington and helped bring the Cup to St. Louis. And then a funny thing happened. Enough teams in bubble territory in the west imploded (Flamed out?) that they ended up near to a playoff spot mostly by default. Today they are eighth in the Western Conference by points or percentage and they hold the second wild card spot.
Are they good though? No, of course not. Nor are they bad. That most unsatisfying answer in our binary age where everything needs to be sorted into two extremes. It's good or bad, an outrage or a nothing burger, and a hockey team is either unbeatable or laughable. So which extreme does St. Louis fit in, and how much shaving off the edges of reality is necessary to justify the category?
St. Louis is good: The Blues are top 10 in save % in all situations, and the modern NHL is just a goalie duel with the rest of the team just there for show. They also have an above average shooting %, so they have some talented shooters. They are above average in Goals Against, which show they're defensively good. They're just good in all situations.
St. Louis is bad: They're in the bottom five of the league in shotshare at five-on-five, and their power play success % is very bad. They're also terrible on the PK, and they have a negative goal differential. They are just bad at everything.
I'll admit, it involves less outright lying to call them bad. But the truth is their five-on-five play is pretty awful, but they are buoyed up by some good goaltending. Their goalies are generally good enough to cover over their defensive weakness and their goal differential is a slight negative. Goaltending doesn't help on the PK, though, where no one is good. Their power play is merely average-ish, and overall their shooting is pretty dead on average, which gooses up their bad overall play a little.
Don't confuse this team with Chicago. Don't confuse this team with the Kings or the Jets either. They are pretty much in the playoff spot they deserve. The trouble for their GM is they might just hold onto it right through to the end of the season. He was trying to sell off some expensive players to rebound starting next season. But much like the Flyers, you can accidentally make the playoffs when so much of the league is not at either pole, but clutter up the middle, kinda meh.
The Blues are bottom edge of the middle, though.
Matthew DeFranks via Daily Faceoff
Pavel Buchnevich - Robert Thomas - Jordan Kyrou
Jake Neighbours - Brayden Schenn - Kasperi Kapanen
Brandon Saad - Kevin Hayes - Sammy Blais
Alexey Toropchenko - Oskar Sundqvist - Nathan Walker
Nick Leddy - Colton Parayko
Torey Krug - Matt Kessel
Marco Scandella - Calle Rosen
Jordan Binnington - likely starter
The Leafs have flaws, and they are missing their number two player tonight, and for x games to come. The rest will cope as best they can.
But they aren't just bad either. No one can conjure a new defenceman today in time for the game. No one can make Max Domi into a better player. No one can make up for Calle Järnkrok being on IR. David Kämpf needs to come back in his good version or he's not helping.
But the top six is outstanding, the power play is excellent, and the defensive depth is good depth. The Leafs are where they are despite goaltending woes, and that takes team quality.
Apologies, I misread this because of the hard work that comma is doing.
David Alter via Daily Faceoff
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - William Nylander
Noah Gregor - Max Domi - Nicholas Robertson
Pontus Holmberg - David Kämpf - Ryan Reaves
T.J. Brodie - Timothy Liljegren
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
William Lagesson - Mark Giordano
Ilya Samsonov - likely starter
Amidst some genuine weaknesses in team play, the Leafs have added in some mental errors, some breakdowns in very simple game mechanics and just generally beat themselves way too much.
If the Leafs can engage the full frontal lobe for 60 minutes, and really focus on getting out of the defensive zone, and they just might win this handily.
To compare two opponents judged to be just bad: the Leafs were at 55% to beat Ottawa by Moneypuck's odds pregame, with no starting goalie known for Ottawa. They are 65% to beat the Blues with no goalies known. Bad comes in a lot of flavours, just like good does.
Try to be the really good maple flavour tonight, Leafs.