Measured March: A Tale of Two ‘Tenders

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    Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)

    Playing 16 games in March, the Leafs iced a remarkable squad, going 9 – 5 – 2 in (one of the best records in the Eastern Conference), collecting 20 out of a possible 32 points. Those 20 points represent almost one third of the Leafs season point total, as do their nine wins. Though this speaks more to the season long ineptitude of Hogtown’s heroes, it more recently speaks to their dazzling success: these totals come from just under one-fifth of the total games played in a season. That is perhaps the most promising thing about these young buds looking at next season.

    The March Maple Leafs have garnered a seemingly meagre 62.5% (that’s like a C-, yuck) win percentage in this fifth of the season. Put over an 82 game schedule however, that would translate into 102 points. Put into perspective, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a 62.5% win percentage this season and currently sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference. While it would be folly to suggest that the Leafs of 2010 – 2011 will be a lock to continue such output, the presented data nevertheless gives some cause for hope.

    In my first article, I measured the effectiveness of the Leafs Penalty Kill since trading for Dion Phaneuf and JS Giguere. A sage comment made in the forums was that your goalie has to be your best penalty killer. While their PK has remained quite staunch, killing 46 of 55 penalties in March for an 83.6% success rate, the results for the recently acquired JS Giguere (not to mention the stalwart shot blocking of the unforgettable Mr. Sjostrom) pales in comparison to the success of his Swedish counterpart  Jonas Gustavsson.

    Playing in half the slate of March games, Jonas Gustavsson compiled a record of 7 – 1 – 0, with a stingy 2.06 GAA and a .923 SV%. Clearly, Ron Wilson’s decision to platoon Gus and Giggy (he alternated the two evenly over the course of the month allowing both to play every other game) paid off for the Nordic rookie. Without a doubt this has been his best stretch all season. Debate will range as to why: more rest, the removal of a suspected toxic dressing room presence, confidence borne of experience, talent shining through, the presence of a mentor, improved team defence. There’s likely some truth to it all.

    Perhaps it is the tandem itself that has inspired the Monster to compete harder. Clearly unhappy with the ice time he’s been receiving, Gustavsson has chosen a most proactive way to increase it: how else can you explain the fact that five of his seven wins came in either overtime or the shoot out? Any player that petitions for more ice time by winning in sudden death is good with me.

    The tale of the tape is not nearly so flattering for JS Giguere, however. He went 2 – 4 – 2, with a 3.02 GAA and .899 SV%. When stacked against his initial success in back to back shut outs following the trade, these numbers look particularly deflating. While it may still be too early to tell, don’t be altogether too surprised if Giguere’s tenure with Toronto will be remembered as his swan song. Though a certain Greek Sportsnet employee intimated otherwise, expect to see a re-signed Gustavsson as the starter for the lion’s share of the games in the 2010-11 season.

    To mollify the fans of JS Giguere, I can say this: tandem or otherwise, the goaltending for the Leafs in March was nothing short of impressive when compared to earlier in the season. In 16 games, The GG duo surrendered only 42 goals (42ga/16gp = 2.625ga/gp). The first 61 games of the season, they were scored on 211 times (211ga/61gp = 3.46ga/gp). This entire month, the Toronto faithful have seen a team that allows almost one full goal less per game, a startling accomplishment that bodes well when looking to next season.

    Perhaps they’re marching in the right direction…

    Sorry.