Game #28 at Toronto: Under the Big Lights


Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-1) vs

Your Winnipeg Jets (14-11-2) 

Last Meeting:
March 12, Jets 5 – Leafs 2
TV: CBC Hockey Night in Canada
Puck Drop: 6:00 (CT)
Live tweeting!: @nhljetsnation


After a high-tempo, frenetic win over Toronto on Tuesday, the Jets are landing in the centre of the universe just one point back of the Leafs for 7th place in the East. No doubt we’ll hear a lot today about teams going in different directions – and it’s hard to ignore a Jets team with wins in 10 of their last 13, and similarly hard not to notice when a Toronto team starts struggling, especially when the coach refuses to ice what seems to be the best possible roster, or even acknowledge who his best players are. Still, the real story of the game is likely to be that of a changed system on the part of the Jets and goaltending at both ends. 

This will be the final installment of the three-game season series between the Jets and Leafs. The first matchup was Febuary 7 – a come-from-behind 3-2 win for the Leafs. On the morning of Febuary 8, the Jets led the NHL in points by defencemen with 34 in just 10 games. Just for comparison sake, Toronto had quite literally half as many (18) points by defencemen in one more game to that point in the season. Injuries to Byfuglien (briefly), Enstrom, and Redmond, as well as Postma losing his roster spot to a returning (and better, don’t get me wrong) Bogosian have required the Jets change how their offence is created. In 17 games since meeting the Leafs in Febuary, the Jets have just 27 points by defencemen. Again, for frame of reference, Toronto has 47 in their last 17. 

While this alone may seem coincidental, the Jets have shown a clear focus on getting pucks and bodies down low of late, generating offence from low in the offensive zone. Their energetic forecheck in Tuesday’s game arguably kept the play away from Toronto’s (mostly) capable forwards and on their (mostly) incapable defencemen. The Jets registered 34 shots, with 4 goals by big bodied players, and a Wellwood back-door play created by Byfuglien and Antropov tossing their weight around down low. Tonight’s installment of the series may be about whether that newer system for the Jets is more effective against the Leafs than the last. 

On the Toronto side, users of advanced metrics (or ‘fancy stats’) have been telling us of Toronto’s bubble all year. Their shot differential is Buffalo level bad this year (heh), and their Fenwick and Corsi % (measures of territory and possession) are bottom 5 in the league. We’re talking Edmonton and Columbus territory. How are they winning? Well, their shooting % is top 5, and they’re not. In February, Toronto’s save % also spiked into the top 5 of the league. Together, their shooting and save % showed an unsustainable run of luck. 

That said, remember this shot? Holy crap. In one 60-minute chunk of hockey, Fenwick% isn’t the only variable, and it may come down to Pavlevec shutting out Toronto’s snipers and not letting the Leafs win on the scoreboard in spite of themselves.

By the Numbers




5×5 GF/60



5×5 GA/60



Goals by Period

25 – 29 – 26

18 – 27 – 23

Fenwick (5×5 Close)

45.8 (26th)

49.6 (20th)










15.1% (26th)

20% (T-7th)

15.4% (25th)

14.6% (19th)


86.8% (T-7th)

82.7% (11th)

79.3% (22nd)

77.4% (21st)

Top Scorer

Phil Kessel

13GP, 3-9-12

Nazem Kadri

15GP, 7-7-14

Andrew Ladd

12GP, 8-5-13

Andrew Ladd

15GP, 6-7-13


Your Winnipeg Jets

Ladd  –  Little  –  Wheeler
Kane  –  Jokinen  –  Miettinen
Wright  –  Wellwood  –  Antropov        
Tangradi  –  Slater  –  Thorburn
Hainsey  –  Bogosian
Clitsome  –  Byfuglien
Stuart  –  Meech

Toronto Maple Leafs

Van Riemsdyk  –  Bozak  –  Kessel
Lupul –  Kadri  –  Kulemin
MacArthur  –  Grabovski  –  Frattin
McLaren  –  McClement  –  Komarov
Phaneuf  –  Holzer
Gunnarsson  –  Liles
Franson  –  Fraser

Coach’s Coaching


Make Toronto’s defencemen make plays
The obvious change the Leafs face is icing a sub-par defence core. I’m not a fan of the Carlyle 4th line, and they are using their centres strangely with Bozak earning more minutes over Kadri and Grabovski, even while both continue to out-perform him. But it’s their defence that lies at the heart of their shot differential and territory and possession problems. Liles struggles with turnovers, Holzer and Frazer struggle with transition, and Phaneuf is a great defenceman but has some very strange choices from time to time. The Jets need not only to play in their opponent’s end (every team wants that), but specifically to force the Toronto defence to handle the puck and make plays to escape pressure. That means a forecheck below the hashmarks and a lot of pressure on the centre to read the play and avoid odd-man rushes against. 
Give it your former Leafs
If I were Nik Antropov or Kyle Wellwood, I’d always put money on the board against Toronto. On Tuesday, each had three points. Their chemistry together is fantastic, and they’ve been lugging James Wright around, who is a pretty likeable coke machine, but a coke machine nonethless. Wellwood has reinvigorated the powerplay by working the half-boards on Byfuglien’s forehand side, and, you know, moving around to be available for a pass. High level stuff, so reward them with ice time.


Catch Antropov and Wellwood putting money on the board, make it a scandal
Exploit offensive space in transition
The corollary to facing a high-pressure forcecheck is to create offence in transition to make them pay for putting forwards low. Luckily for the Leafs, they have buckets of transition offence in Kessel (a vertical attacker even in-zone), Kadri, Lupul, and Grabovski. Watch for 3-on-2s with anyone not just named driving the net to draw a defenceman and create space for the third forward dropping high for a high-low 2-on-1. Luckily Pavelec is great at those, right? Right guys? Guys?