Breaking News: Leafs performance level statistically unlikely to continue

665
Photo: mapleleafs.com

James Mirtle wrote a column on the Leafs’ abnormally high shooting percentage yesterday. Given we’re at the 10 game mark of the season and the Leafs shooting percentage and save percentage are actually up a significant margin from last season, let’s update the numbers for Carlyle’s team if we combine this season so far with last season including playoffs. (The Leafs currently lead the league in team shooting percentage at 12.3%, and are fifth in the league in team save percentage with a 0.930).

 GPShots ForGoals ForSh%Shots AgainstGoals AgainstSv%     
Total65176619611.1216717491.97
2012-1348126414511.5154912891.7
2013 playoffs7234187.72732291.9
2013-14102683312.33452493.0
Total Record36 - 24 - 5
Average shot margin-6.2
Record when outshot29 -15 - 5
Record when outshooting7 - 9

To summarize, because the table text is pretty tiny: Working with a 65-game sample size now, the Leafs have been outshot 49 times, posting a record of 29-15-5. They’re out shot, on average, by a little over 6 shots per game. Their shooting percentage over the 65 games is 11.1% (league average is around 9% over all situations). Their save percentage is 0.9197.

What an interesting team. I don’t blame anybody who looks at recent league history and asks themselves, “for how long can this go on?”

As I see it:

The Leafs are a transitional team that thrives on speed and skill off the rush to generate prime scoring opportunities in little zone time at 5 on 5, sometimes in odd man situations and often times before the opposing defence has been able to organize itself.

I often contrast the Leafs with a team like Boston, who have so few players up and down the lineup who can’t do exactly what the Bruins ask of their players – manage the puck well, forecheck, and cycle the puck. What you get is a level of consistency to the Bruin gameplan that has bred success for the Bs over the past few years. If you watch the fascinating Bruins Behind the Draft video, they still refer to the Kessel trade as a good result for them. They like their system, it’s worked for them, (a Cup and a Cup finals appearance in past 3 years), and they don’t seem too worried about what Kessel is up to in Toronto. Maybe they should, because at one point a member of Bruins management says something to the tune of: “If Seguin plays better we would’ve won the Cup last Spring.”

The Leafs on the other hand are a skating team, don’t have a ton of possession-style forwards, they have a pretty inexperienced blueline but great goaltending, and where the Bruins wear teams down the Leafs thrive on the rope a dope. There are spells when the Leafs look like they don’t belong on the same ice surface as the other team, only for the Leafs to strike quickly and leave opposing defencemen wow’ed by their speed and skill.

[quote_box_left]”We started collectively turning pucks over, and that’s a fast hockey team,” Anaheim’s Ben Lovejoy said. “We gave them too many easy pucks, easy turnovers, and they were able to hit it back at us with speed. We certainly lost our composure and didn’t play how we wanted to play. That’s one of the fastest teams we’ve played, and they made us pay.”
-Ben Lovejoy[/quote_box_left]

It’s high time we acknowledge that a team with JvR, Lupul, Kessel and Kadri in their top 6 is a team capable of opening a game up with their speed and skill, generating high quality scoring opportunities, and scoring above the mean. The likes of Raymond and Bolland both add some good depth to the speed and skill on this team in the place of guys like Frattin and MacArthur.

It was a fascinating clash in styles when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last Spring. While the Leafs were a pretty physical outfit themselves and didn’t back down from the Bruins in this series, they weren’t the better possession team by a long shot and it was the significant speed advantage that put the Leafs within 10 minutes and a historically unprecedented collapse (or comeback, if you prefer) of advancing to round 2. The Leafs scored 12 goals at even strength in the series, many of them on the counterattack and off the rush; Lupul’s goal off a great rush by Frattin; Kessel’s glorious breakaway goal late in Game 2; MacArthur beating Boychuk wide and dancing Rask after picking up a giveaway in the neutral zone; Grabovski flying in off the rush and setting up the JvR spin-and-twist-o-rama; Kadri and Kessel’s 2 on 1 that should’ve sealed the series victory; all of these come to mind.

Sorry for bringing up May 13th. To wrap up, I maintain the hope from the offseason that a lineup with Clarkson and Kulemin playing on two of its top three lines, which we’ve been deprived of due to injury and suspension, can be a team capable of winning in more ways than one. Both wingers are playing their game when they’re first in on the forecheck looking to separate a defender from the puck and initiate a cycle for their linemates. With a stronger forechecking presence and cycling element introduced into this fast and skilled team, the right mix could be lethal. When the Leafs 12+% shooting percentage declines, hopefully it comes alongside more shots and a bump in offensive zone time. My concern is less about whether the Leafs have been lucky in the way they have generated offence, and more to do with them missing a key element or dimension to their game for when they’re presented with different challenges – like if they can compete against the likes of Chicago, or if they can adapt when faced with new approaches to shutting them down throughout the season.

Thursday Morning Links:

– The Marlies lost to Rockford yesterday. Recap and highlights available here.

The more we complain, the more the Leafs win. The Lesson is: Don’t stop complaining. “Wahhh wahh Corsi wahh” to you too, Michael Langlois.

Clarkson’s gearrrrrrrrrrin’ up for his big debut on Friday.

– The answer to the question, “who would’ve played net if Bernier got hurt that game Reimer got hurt before the goalie off the street arrived,” is Colton Orr. A former soccer goalie, he’s apparently quite good at punching away soccer balls as well. Carlyle ran another fun practice yesterday after his team ended his former club’s winning streak.

The Senators kicked the snot out of Alfredsson’s Red Wings yesterday.

– Frazer McLaren was on Off The Record with his mom yesterday sporting a greasy Joe Dirt mullet.

This hit was so bad it might take Scott out of the Leafs/Sabres back-to-back meetings in mid November. Might not have happened if the Shanahan suspended the guiltiest party in the Leafs-Sabres line brawl.

SHARE
Previous articleHBO 24/7: Maple Leafs-Red Wings TV Schedule Dates Announced
Next articleRielly officially staying, Lupul bruised
Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • BENYAY

    Refreshing read on account of the author expressing an actual understanding of hockey. We talk about shooting percentages and corsi’s sometimes as if they’re what coaches instruct their players on before their team hits the ice surface. To me, they’re a  symptom of what system a team is playing and how well they’re playing it. You have to keep in mind personnel makeup and systems play.  The concerns about this play style are also valid. If the Leafs collapse this season, it won’t be because they ran out of blowjobs from old lady luck. It will be for the reasons you mentioned. I hate the luck argument.

  • mORRganRielly

    It’s pretty amazing how much quality writing is being pumped out of MLHS and other blogs like Langlois’ each and every day.  Fantastic post, Alec.

  • BENYAY

    mORRganRielly Yes. Love the balance to the analysis.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    @BENYAY mORRganRielly Thanks guys.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Hopefully RC has found a formula for motivating and improving this team.  He has gone (for now) with the “catch more flies with honey” approach.  No doubt, a speed and skill game requires a degree of relaxation and confidence.

  • Burtonboy

    Just watching the Scott hit . Wow that’s a bit of head hunting right there . 
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojoCAhhOxGs

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy 
    Would have been nice if Mr. Chara had been the first to reach John Scott.  That would have been a tilt, and my money would be on Zdeno breaking out the ragdoll

  • Burtonboy

    CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy Its possible this one could get more then 10 . There is no history as Scott has never been suspended. That makes it tougher but Shanahan may want to make a real statement with this one . BTW if Rolston wore blacked rimmed glasses taped in the middle he would be right at home.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Really well done Alec.  
    Interesting to note that even though the SH% dropped to 7.7% in the Bruins playoff series we still almost beat them. They also increased their shots per game to 33 against a very strong Bruins team when needed.  
    Maybe the answer is they’re good enough to have a higher shooting percentage but when that’s not working they’re good enough to get more shots on goal.

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks !
    How about those vaunted Redwings !

  • Burtonboy

    CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy Dreger made an interesting comment . He was talking with a litigation lawyer who said if a player decided to sue the league with video evidence like that it would be a slam dunk they would win in court

  • Biltmore

    Scotty Bowman has said, “If you’re PP and PK combined rankings total 10 or under, you’re a pretty good hockey team.” 
    Maybe it’s also true then that if your shooting percentage and save percentage rankings combined come it at 10 or under, or 8 and under…. might be a magic number in there somewhere.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/hsjrphoto/status/393230327826493440/photo/1

  • Knights2Leafs

    I get that plus/minus is not the most reliable stat.  Rielly is a -3 but really has shown way more than I expected.  Not skills wise but standing up to the physical play.
    Interesting that Gunnar is -2 while Dion is +5.   That is not a knock on Gunnar as I think he’s really played better most of the time this year.
    Dion leading the team at +5 is pretty impressive though given that he is usually getting the toughest minutes.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Burtonboy  I thought it was an elbow but the NBC crew seemed convinced it was the shoulder. Tough to say, either way it’s really dirty. Elbow even dirtier. Deserves 10.

  • Burtonboy

    Alec Brownscombe Burtonboy Deserves more but his history probably gets him off the hook

  • Great Dane

    Just a small addition to the table above:
    Our SF/SA ratio are:
    12-13:       81%
    Playoff:     85%
    13-14:       77%
    If we are above 90% I wouldn’t have a problem but under 85% that is asking for trouble. So a deficit of 2-3 shots per game would be aceeptable.

    Leafs is not a possession team – Leafs is a counter attack team and really good at it. Currently we are saved by the fact that Burke/Nonis was collect first class talent (except Bozak), but when we meet a team with equal talent like the Blackhawks, we will get outplayed.

  • phaneufoundlander

    The Pegs coach looks even more dorky……..man what a nerd that guy is.

  • Great Dane

    -Keon-http://www.bergerbytes.ca/leafs-will-avoid-killer-streak/
    Read that article – that is exactly what you are referring to.

  • Great Dane

    -Keon- yes but we are not that far off. I would say the biggest difference is that they Toews. If the Leafs had a player of Toews quality on 1C slot we would be at least on par with Chicago

  • Cameron19

    Great Dane -Keon- Toews, and the fact that their D corps is all fully developed.

  • Great Dane

    -Keon- In his defense HB has been pretty positive about the Leafs since he left the radio.
    Before the season HB said as one of the few journalist that Leafs would make the playoffs.

  • Great Dane

    Cameron19 Great Dane -Keon-  Give our defense 3 years experience and they will be one of the best in the NHL

  • Cameron19

    CanuckUKinToronto Knights2Leafs I dunno about that.  The year we had the collapse, Wilson wanted him in Norris contention, and until January or so, the media was having a real tough time disagreeing.  It’s just that people quickly forget that stuff. 

    To me, this is pretty much how he’s played the vast majority of the last 2 and a half seasons. He just has a better team in front of him now.

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 CanuckUKinToronto Knights2Leafs Seems like the coaching staff are trying hard to reduce his minutes as well . That would be a good thing in the long run . He won’t be gassed later in games and later in the year.

  • lieffan

    -Keon- Don’t have much respect for opportunism though. More respect for those who shared and argued for Burke’s vision from the earlier days when the foundation was being laid but the results weren’t showing. Like many of the fine writers on the blog and folks on these boards.

  • Cameron19

    -Keon- 29 teams disappoint every year.

  • wendelsway1

    Good Morning Gents……great day to be a Leafer!…..one more sleep ’til Clarkson’s in the line up………All I can say this morning is thank goodness Kessel had the wherewithal to start swinging his stick ’cause I have no doubt we’d have witnessed Kessel laid out on the ice……what a freakin’ meathead Scott is.

  • Burtonboy

    wendelsway1 Kessel is old school lol. If it were Richard or Howe that Scott was going after  he would have  faced the same lumber only a little higher :)

  • Mind Bomb

    wendelsway1 Morning WW, its really saying something when Steve Ott is NOT the douchy est guy on your Team lol !!!!

  • wendelsway1

    Burtonboy wendelsway1 Yep….he’d be spitting out teeth.

  • peterbleafs

    Not sure what it means about the upcoming winter but I still have robins around.

  • peterbleafs

    When I see the word statistics in a title I mirror back to engineering school, panic and ignore the entire article.  Ill just cheer for the guys in the blue and white, thats enough.

  • wendelsway1

    Mind Bomb wendelsway1 Well with Kaleta suspended and now this Scott incident, which I’m sure will garner a suspension…..Ott’s gonna be a busy boy…lol

  • Mind Bomb

    -Keon-  No shite Keon, I remember all the comments on how Buffalo will be a contender with a Money to spend lol

  • SteveHoltom

    Cameron19 Great Dane -Keon- 
    Good Morning Gents,  totally agree, very young at D. and maturing still. Continue to build from within and give as much ice time to the youngins. Championship teams are built from the net out. I like the looks of where we are going.

  • Cameron19

    -Keon- And two of their recent high draft picks look like total busts on top of it.  I know it’s really early to say that about Girgorenko, but man, he sucks.

  • Jantz

    Only saw the 3rd period of the Anaheim game live so I watched the 1st and 2nd periods last night. 
    I was surprised to see that the Leafs played a pretty good first period. Yes they only had 2 shots however, their effort, fore check, cycle and physicality were clearly evident. If this had been game 8 on the schedule and we came into it with  a 6-1 record, nobody would have minded that period. We all get caught up in the shot totals but that was a solid period with Anaheim only having 6 shots. IMHO it was one of the better 1st periods of the season even though guys like Raymond and Kessel were fighting the puck.
    Can’t wait to have Clarkson join the mix tomorrow and then Pittsburgh on Saturday. We need 3 points from these next 2.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    wendelsway1 Mind Bomb …and all alone.

  • Burtonboy

    TheCanucksnaphook Its Saturday . You must have slept in and missed the game. :)

  • Burtonboy

    TheCanucksnaphook Burtonboy 2 goals 2 fights lol

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    TheCanucksnaphook Burtonboy Kessel was fighting Marian Gaborik so Clarkie came off the bench again to tell them to knock it off. 10 game suspension.

  • Jantz

    TheCanucksnaphook Jantz Not sure what to expect tomorrow night however, Columbus has been struggling. We know Clarkson will have an impact……. I just hope the rest of the boys aren’t thinking about Pittsburgh.

  • dlb eh

    Jantz 
    funny, i thought the same thing watching (i called it not bad, but just not real good either).  but when i listened to everyone else talk it sounded like we played really poorly.
    if the passing was crisp we might have looked good.

  • dlb eh

    TheCanucksnaphook 
    not game day, so who we trading for?

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Shoulder hit eh? I’m not so sure….https://twitter.com/BuffNewsVoglhttps://twitter.com/BuffNewsVogl/status/393234542016081920
    Buffalo News photographer Harry Scull gets John Scott’s impact with Bruins’ Loui Eriksson. http://t.co/S1bsgNcrNj

  • Jantz

    dlb eh Jantz  Now the first 5 minutes of the 2nd ……… that was a different story.

  • dlb eh

    Great Dane 
    i think we have the talent to compete with any club.  the operative word is COMPETE.  when our players ramp it up we can hang with the big boys.

  • dlb eh

    -Keon- 
    you just convinced me to try to read his stuff again.  until i don’t like it.  HB owes you a soda.

  • Cameron19

    dlb eh TheCanucksnaphook Please not Kulikov or Gudbranson.