by SENShobo on 10/22/09 at 10:59 AM ET
Some injury news, lineup notes, but first..
From the Ottawa Citizen,
“Obviously, it’s a definite advantage when you score first,” said Mike Fisher, who set up both Chris Neil and Alex Kovalev for goals against Montreal.
“It gives you that much more confidence. Montreal was all over us in the first period and (Leclaire) made some great saves. We got out of that first period tied 1-1 and we knew it was all they could throw at us.
“We were confident we could find our game. Without some of those saves, it could have been 2-1 or 3-1 after the first period and a different game.”
“We’ve been fortunate to have scored the first goal in so many games,” said Nick Foligno, who also assisted on Neil’s game-opening goal against Montreal. “I think it allows you to play your game. You’re able to dictate how the game is going to be played, and I think that’s the biggest thing for us. When we’re dictating, it’s a better game for us. We’re forechecking, we’re the ones with the puck on our stick.
Why not throw out a random set of numbers, though, and see if it doesn’t stick to Leclaire and his fortunes?
Everyone wondered how Leclaire would fare in Ottawa; would he recover from the injury that limited him to just 12 games last season? Or would he return to the form that saw him post 9 shutouts on a weaker team just one year earlier? I would like to put forth a few numbers, for your consideration.
Those are his NHL seasons, his Games Played, his Win, Loss, Overtime Loss records, his Shutouts, his team’s Shots Against per Game, his team’s Blocked Shots per Game, and his team’s Shots per Game. It doesn’t get much more basic than this.
In that case, I’ll try to imagine that I see something. I see that one of his worst seasons, his first, came when he faced 36.1+12.4 shots per game, not including missed shots, for a total of 48.5 pucks he had to prepare for, with his team managing 27.4 shots of pressure at the other end. While he fared worse the following season, even as the total pucks faced declined to 28.7+12.1=40.8, you would still call it an unheralded defence, and the team still adjusting to losing Gerard Gallant as head coach, briefly having Gary Agnew in the interim, before settling on Ken Hitchcock, and generating 28.7 shots per game. For the record, Leclaire was 1-6-0 before Hitchcock, and 5-9-2 after he came in. Then came the breakthrough.
In 2007-08, with the Hitchcock system fully in place and generating 29.0 shots per game, Leclaire faced a career-low 27.7+10.8=38.5 pucks to prepare for per game, and if the decrease from 12.4 to 12.1 to now 10.8 blocks per game can be literally transcribed, he had fewer bodies falling around to obscure and deflect pucks. Some goalies, like Osgood in Detroit, fare best when dealing with very few shots on net, which is why they are one of the stingiest teams in that respect year after year, while other goalies prefer to see clear to the shooter every time, with his passing options limited and rebounds cleared away. In his injury-shortened last season in Columbus, he faced 28.9+12.5=41.4 pucks to prepare for per game, with his team generating 28.9 shots per game at the other end.
This season, we could discover what affects our prized acquisition. On one hand, the Senators are giving him the most support he’s seen, creating 30.1 shots per game at the other end. On the other hand, they are even giving him the easiest load of pucks to actually hit him, with just 26.5 shots faced per game, the biggest drop off of his career, though undoubtedly affected by the not-going-to-happen-nightly 17 shots from the Lightning. On the third mutant hand, his shots prepared for is the second highest of his career at 42.2, thanks to the most blocked shots he’s ever had, 15.7 per game.
So which will it be? Will Leclaire thrive with the increased pressure his skaters are generating, and the lowest shot totals allowed he’s had? Or will the number of falling bodies in front of him—, an Ottawa specialty and at 15.7 per game roughly 50% higher than his standout season where he only had 10.8 blocked per game—seal his fate, once true competition arises? For comparison, in his two losses, the Rangers had 33 shots and the Penguins 28, the most and second-most he’s faced this season. In those games, Ottawa managed 34 shots with 12 blocked shots and 19 attempted blocks, and 31 shots with 11 blocked and 14 attempted blocks, respectively. It’s also worth noting that the juxtaposition of facing the crop of the League in two games and the creamed part of the rest won’t ever give you a good picture.
It’s important to note a few things. Tonight there will be some shuffling, with Regin coming back from injury, and either Shannon or Spezza sitting out, depending on whether the nagging in Spezza’s back needing some rest (he has 4 assists in 7 games). Kuba is also having troubles, with groin area issues that are inconsistent and hampering his return (OC). Tonight, the Senators will face the Predators, the NHL’s most anemic offence (1.38G/G through 8 games, Toronto next worst with 2.00), the NHL’s 22nd worst defence (3.13GA/G), the League’s worst power play (3.7%, Ottawa at 29th with 11.5%), the 3rd worst penalty kill (69.2%), but most critically they are better at face offs (51.2% compared to Ottawa’s 49.2%).
Or maybe most critically, my too-many-gameless-days number fantasizing hypothesizing is beyond wrong. With Elliott expected to get the start, though, we won’t really get a chance to know just yet.
Update - 11:12 a.m. - Tim Murray just said on the Team 1200 that Spezza will play, Kuba will be day-to-day and will not play tonight. Starting in net will be Leclaire. Donovan will be out of the lineup, Shannon staying in on the fourth line (am I the only one who wants to see a youth line of Foligno-Regin-Shannon, as much as I like Donovan?).
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