Last night, James Mirtle raised the topic of how the Leafs fared against teams currently in a playoff position, and after a quick bit of research I tweeted out a few stats in answer to the question. For those not on Twitter, or those who did not see it, I’ve posted the results in further detail here.
Predictably, the Leafs‘ record versus teams currently in a playoff position is rather poor. More troubling than their overall record against those teams, however, is the differential between goals for and against in those games. More after the jump.
A couple of notes about the statistics below:
- “% PTS” stands for the percentage of possible points the team could have earned (e.g. 2-1-0 record = 4 of 6 possible points = .667 pts %).
- Admittedly, the sample size is small. But since the subject is team record versus current playoff teams, the data has its inherent limits.
- Team-by-team data is provided for interest’s sake, but it is the totals which are most relevant.Â This is particularly the case with Western Conference opponents, some of whom the Leafs have not yet played (marked accordingly as N/A), most of whom the Leafs have only played once. Again, it is the totals which are of greatest interest.
- The numbers have changed slightly from what I put out on Twitter last night, as the totals have been amended to include Calgary jumping past LA for the 8th spot in the West.
Leafs’ Record vs Teams In Playoff Position (as of February 19, 2012)
|EASTERN AND WESTERN CONFERENCES, COMBINED|
A few observations:
- The Leafs’ 2.59 GF/gm versus playoff teams is well below their current 3.02 GF/gm overall.
- The Leafs’ 3.72 GA/gm versus playoff teams is terrible no matter which way you cut it, and a far cry from their (less-than-stellar) 3.05 GA/gm overall.
- Based on those numbers, one could argue that the Leafs are somewhat lucky to find themselves hanging onto the 8th seed, considering they have played just under half their games against teams currently in the playoff mix.
- Fortunately for the Leafs, the 30 games they have played against non-playoff teams have featured a far more balanced relationship between GF/gm (3.02) and GA/gm (3.05), suggesting they have performed well enough against those teams to maintain their position on the bubble of the playoffs, despite their struggles against those teams ahead in the standings.
- On that note: Removing the games against Boston — as some are surely wont to do — produces the following: 25 GP vs playoff teams, 10-12-3 (.460), 69 GF (2.76/gm), 85 GA (3.40/gm).Â Slightly better, yes … but even in that circumstance the Leafs’ GA/gm is hardly something to write home about.
A few people asked about Calgary’s record as a comparable team, so I have included the Flames’ numbers below.Â I have also included Los Angeles and Washington, both of whom are within a point of the 8th seed, and each of whom represents a rather peculiar case.Â For the sake of length I have posted only the totals (East + West combined) for each.
|VS PLAYOFF AND NON-PLAYOFF TEAMS|
|Vs playoff teams||35||12-17-6||.429||75||2.14||102||2.91|
|Vs playoff teams||33||17-11-5||.591||69||2.09||67||2.03|
|Vs playoff teams||33||16-14-3||.530||95||2.88||97||2.93|
|Vs playoff teams||29||10-16-3||.397||75||2.59||108||3.72|
A few observations:
- The first thing we notice is Toronto and Calgary are — in the words of Dennis Green — who we thought they were.Â Both teams were expected to hover around the final playoff spot, and three-quarters of the way through the season both are in 8th. Somewhat predictably, neither club has fared well against teams in a playoff position, but both have played markedly better against teams outside of the top eight in each conference (as indicated by the highlighted GA and GF figures). Their level of success against non-playoff teams has been high enough to offset their struggles against the playoff teams, the result of which has been their ability to hold ground firmly in the middle of the pack.
- All that said, the difference in GF and GA versus playoff and non-playoff teams, for Calgary and (especially) Toronto, is absolutely ridiculous.
- Both Los Angeles and Washington were expected to challenge for conference titles this season, and both do have winning records against playoff teams. Yet, both have surprisingly found far less success against teams currently out of the mix than one would expect considering the talent on both clubs.
- In the case of Los Angeles, a quick look at the goal-scoring figures tell the story: superb goal-prevention (goaltending + defensive play) has led the offensively-inept Kings to several narrow victories over playoff teams.Â Yet against lesser foes, the team seems to suffer from somewhat of a letdown (playing at an even .500 in those games). Although the Kings’ goals-against figure against non-playoff teams is still very respectable, the goals-for figure improves by an insignificant 0.03 margin, resulting in the Kings losing games they ideally shouldn’t for the simple fact that they cannot find a way to put the puck in the net.
- In the case of Washington, although they are not putting the puck in the net as often as we’ve come to expect (injuries to key offensive cogs such as Backstrom and Green have played a role here), the Capitals nevertheless find themselves with a winning record against playoff teams … and yet remain on the outside looking in. Although the Capitals do sport a winning record against non-playoff teams, one could argue they are, in a sense, “playing down” to their opponents.Â In theory, teams that find themselves in a playoff position should have a significantly better record against non-playoff teams; the Caps’ differential is all of 0.30 … which is simply not good enough to secure a playoff position.
- If any conclusion is to be drawn, it is that without a significant improvement in goaltending and/or defensive play against currently-ranked playoff teams, a post-season berth is anything but guaranteed for Toronto.Â Washington represents a definite threat; should they find a way to step it up in the games they “should” be winning, they could very realistically make a late charge up the standings.Â And by no means should anyone count Los Angeles out in the West. If the numbers suggest anything, it is that the Kings are quite capable of making a late push of their own, provided they are able to add some offensive spark at the deadline.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,