Why the Toronto Maple Leafs Are One of the Best Teams in NHL

Despite their record, the Toronto Maple Leafs are clearly one of the best teams in the NHL.

The 2019-20 season may end up lost due to COVID-19 and it’s a real shame as the Toronto Maple Leafs are having an underrated great season.

When the NHL season stopped, the Leafs were third in the Atlantic division with 81 points, narrowly holding onto a playoff spot. That’s 19 points out of the first place Boston Bruins which sounds like a ton of points but in reality it doesn’t mean anything.

The top team in the NHL is awarded the President’s Trophy ever year, and in the last 20 seasons, only four of those winners have actually gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

Toronto Maple Leafs Among NHL’s Best

However, there’s a reason why the President’s Trophy winner doesn’t fare as well in the playoffs. There is unlimited 5-on-5 overtime in the postseason, whereas a regular season game only has five minutes of 3-on-3 then a shootout.

Within that limited overtime and shootout in the regular season, a teams record can fluctuate  based on how they do in extra time. For the most part, the best eight teams in each conference will make the playoffs regardless of their overtime/shootout record, but the standings can be a delusion because of this.

The NHL does have a salary cap and near full parity, after all.

Let’s look back in history to the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings. They ended up being the eighth seed in the playoffs because they had 15 losses in overtime/shootout, when they were clearly much better than that.

Toronto’s record is currently 36-25-9. Those nine shootout/overtime losses puts them at seventh most in the NHL.

Although every team can say they should have won a few more games in extra time, it’s been a true curse for Toronto.

In 70 games played, 17 have gone to overtime or a shootout, which means 25 percent of their entire schedule has been determined by a game entirely different than regulation. That’s insane!

As mentioned before, the entire NHL has to deal with the same issue. They all have the same rules and have to play 3-on-3 or go to a shootout if the game is tied. However, the thing that showcases why this is more extreme for the Leafs are their 5-on-5 stats.

From an individual player perspective, Auston Matthews is arguably the best 5-on-5 player in the NHL. His 5-on-5 numbers are insane with 35 even strength goals and he’s also been terrible in the shootout going 1-for-6 this year.

Funny how there’s so much of a correlation between Matthews’ shootout percentage and the Leafs shootout record this year.

In addition, the Leafs have a tremendous CF% (Corsi For Percentage) at 51.9%, which sits seventh in the NHL. Their Corsi numbers also correlate well with their ‘Goals For’ stat of 238 total goals, which is third best in the NHL.

Not only has extra time been a negative for the Leafs, their back-up goaltending has cost them tremendously this year, which won’t happen in the playoffs.

Michael Hutchinson: 4-9-1 record (28.5 Win %, 3.66 GAA, 0.886 Save %)

Frederik Andersen: 29-13-7 record (59.1 Win %, 2.85 GAA, 0.909 Save %) 

Hutchinson’s numbers are so bad that it’s kind of impressive they were still able to win four games in his presence.

Similarly to the 5-on-5 argument, the Leafs won’t need a back-up goaltender in the playoffs. Therefore, having Andersen as the starter every night will show how much better this team is than their record shows.

 

Next: Busting 3 Ridiculous Myths

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had their ups and downs and it’s been a fun roller-coaster ride this season. However, don’t look to strongly at their points total because if the season were to resume, they could make some noise in the playoffs.

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