GDT: Game #44, Toronto Maple Leafs at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m., SNO)

Photo: Associated Press

The Ducks sound prepared for a Leafs team identity they’ve been trying to stray away from under new interim coach Peter Horachek.

[quote_box_center]“They get us into a horse race, and they’re better at that game than we are. Sometimes you get caught playing the other team’s game, and it seems to be happening to us. We’re more about getting it deep, grinding it out, and attacking the nets and playing good defensively.
-Bruce Boudreau [/quote_box_center]

That’s been the flummoxing paradox with this Leafs team the past few seasons; if they can draw the other team into playing the track-meet, borderline-pond-hockey brand of game they excel at, they’ve beaten some of the best in the League in emphatic fashion and gone on some fun win streaks. Look no further than wins over Anaheim earlier this season and the two from 2013-14, or a couple of decisive victories over the Blackhawks on home ice, among others. Problem being it’s obviously proven not to be the recipe for sustainable, odds-on success.

[quote_box_center]“We’ve got into a track meet with them and they’re the type of team that doesn’t need too many chances to score goals. They have a lot of guys that can really skate and push the pace. That’s not the type of team we are.”
– Cam Fowler[/quote_box_center]

The Leafs‘ best weapon remains their speed, but they’re in the process of trying to tweak how they go about using it to generate better-structured breakouts and more speed through neutral ice, which all ties into together when trying to generate a fast and aggressive forecheck and cycle game in the offensive zone.

The Leafs have strung together consecutive 20-shots-against performances for the first time since the 2007-08 season, a testament to more committed defensive play and the generation of more cycle time in the other end of the rink. Whether it’s attributable to the tweaks to the breakout and some deployment/line changes, or if this is just the temporary post-coaching-change bump in motivation and commitment, is a question that can only be answered in time.

In the last meeting with the Ducks, the Leafs were outshot and outchanced but lit Anaheim up for six goals, chasing Frederik Andersen after goal number four before Kessel put two more past Ilya Bryzgalov in relief.

The gameplan for the Ducks, according to Bruce Boudreau, is to try to play a lot of it below the circles in the Leaf zone on the backs of their big and skilled forwards. What’s interesting about the Ducks is that they’re so unexceptional across the board in the major statistical categories. Special teams, possession numbers, even goals for and against, the Ducks are not among the League’s elite in any of it and yet they continue to find a way to manufacture wins and are currently second in the NHL with 60 points through 43 games.

As for lineup notes, the practice lines have Sam Carrick re-entering the lineup in the 3C slot. We won’t read too far into the lines just yet, though, as Leo Komarov may play as of yet; he’s considered a gametime decision and the Leafs coaching staff was hopeful today that he could play a part tonight.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Anaheim Ducks - Head to Head

Head to Head:Maple LeafsDucks
Record (Points%)22-18-3 (.547% - 18th)27-10-6 (.698% - 2nd)
Goal Differential+5 (14th)+3 (16th)
GF/G3.12 (3rd)2.67 (17th)
GA/G3.05 (25th)2.65 (18th)
PP20.3% (10th)16.7% (22nd)
PK82.3% (12th)80.4% (18th)
SF/G29.1 (21st)30.8 (9th)
SA/G33.5 (28th)29.0 (15th)
5v5 SF/G27.5 (23rd)29.2 (14th)
5v5 SA/G32.9 (28th)27.7 (10th)
5v5 FF%45.1% (28th)51.7% (10th)
5v5 CF%44.9% (27th)51.0% (15th)
5v5 Sh%9.24% (2nd)7.69% (15th)
5v5 Sv%92.0% (20th)92.23% (17th)
FO%49.1% (20th)51.8% (9th)

PP=Power Play %; PK=Penalty Kill %; GF/G=Goals for per game; GA/G=Goals against per game; SF/G=Shots for per game; SA/G=Shots against per game; Sh%=Shooting %; Sv%=Save percentage; F0%=Faceoff percentage; CF%=Corsi for % (shot attempts: shots, blocked shots, missed shots); FF%=Fenwick for% (shots+missed shots)

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Daniel Winnik – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
(3-14-16) – (14-18-32) – (19-24-43) (37g, 91pts TOT)
James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Richard Panik
(19-21-40) – (11-14-25) – (7-1-8) (37g, 73pts TOT)
Mike Santorelli – Sam Carrick – David Clarkson
(9-16-25) – (0-0-0) – (9-4-13) (18g, 38pts TOT)
David Booth – Trevor Smith – Troy Bodie
(1-1-2) – (1-2-2) – (0-0-0) (2g, 5pts TOT)

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
(2-20-22) – (6-19-24) (8G, 47PTS TOT)
Jake Gardiner – Stephane Robidas
(2-7-9) – (0-4-4) (2G, 13PTS TOT)
Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
(4-8-12) – (4-3-7) (8G, 19PTS TOT)

Jonathan Bernier
(16-10-3, 2.73 GAA, .916SV%)
James Reimer

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer
Injured: Leo Komarov* (upper body), Peter Holland (upper body), Joffrey Lupul (lower body)
*game time decision

Anaheim Ducks Projected Lines

Patrick Maroon – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
(2-15-17) – (13-32-45) – (15-9-24) (30g, 86pts TOT)
Rene Bourque – Ryan Kesler – Kyle Palmieri
(2-6-8) – (12-17-29) – (7-5-12) (21g, 49pts TOT)
Andrew Cogliano – Rickard Rakell – Jakob Silfverberg
(5-6-11) –  (3-9-12) – (4-12-16) (12g, 39pts TOT)
Devante Smith-Pelley – Nate Thompson – Tim Jackman
(4-11-15)  – (3-6-9) – (3-2-5) (10g, 29pts TOT)

Sami Vatanen – Cam Fowler
(9-8-17) – (5-14-19) (14g, 36pts TOT)
Hampus Lindholm – Francois Beauchemin
(4-12-16) – (3-5-8) (7g, 24pts TOT)
Clayton Stoner – Ben Lovejoy
(0-1-1) – (0-6-6) (0g, 7pts TOT)

Frederik Andersen
(23-6-5, 2.36GAA, .915SV%)
Ilya Bryzgalov

Scratched: Mark Fistric, Matt Beleskey