Toronto ends their home heavy schedule this Saturday (to make way for the World Juniors at the ACC) and begins a 7 game road trip starting Sunday vs the Chicago Blackhawks.

The red-hot Anaheim Ducks are in town tonight to take on the red-hot Maple Leafs, in what could be a great matchup.

Much has been made about the Maple Leafs possession woes this season. While being abhorrent last year, they are making ground on becoming a better possession team through better personnel and, most importantly, through better systemic process and tactics.

[pull_quote_center] During a Saturday morning chat, Mike Babcock was asked about the top teams in the league. He grabbed the daily stat sheet and circled the five with the best goal differential — Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. “There you go,” he said. Note to NHL: Babcock thinks that statistic should be on the front of the package. It’s on Page Two.[/pull_quote_center]

The best measure of a hockey team (so far) is goal differential. Looking at last year’s standings at the same point in the season showed the Leafs a barely positive goal differential team. It’s not hard to see that during the regular season, St. Louis, Chicago and San Jose were juggernauts. If you think back to games vs the Maple Leafs, there were a number of games that were over from puck drop and those were games against St. Louis, San Jose and, to a lesser degree, Chicago.

2013 Goal Differential

2013-Goal Differential


This season, they have been much better in this regard. Hockey, stripped down to the basic tenets, is a game of goals and goals against; they are scoring more goals than they are allowing and that’s what is winning them hockey games. How they are accomplishing this is up for debate, but it’s a marked difference between last season and this season. Their shooting percentage is leading the league, which is concerning and they have a rising-yet-not-unsustainable save percentage—the best two metrics available to gauge luck. The team and its fans would like to avoid the collapse last year and see playoff hockey in this city again. It’s a long season and there are certain to be dips, but it’s easy to see different—and better—hockey being played. At this stage last year, they had yet to play a game most could agree was a good, complete(ish) game. That was likely their first game last year against the LA Kings, it was December 11th and it was a 3-1 loss, which they were unlucky to lose.

2014 Goal Differential

2014-Goal Differential

It’s a positive step in the right direction and one that I’m sure they’re hoping to maintain. Now to reduce the shots against…

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