Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews So Overdue It’s Not Even Funny

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 18: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs sets up for a tip in attempt in front of goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 18, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 18: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs sets up for a tip in attempt in front of goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 18, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are now off to a great 3-1 start to the season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night in a game where the Leafs easy could have won by blowout, but which Jet’s goalie and should-be reigning Hart Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck was superb in.

Now, it’s obviously great that the Leafs are off to a strong start, that John Tavares is leading the league in points (it’s early) and that Freddie Andersen had a decent game.  There are a lot of positives (the play of all the big guns, the early returns on Joe thornton) but none more so than the fact that the Leafs are a solid 3-1 in four games in which they were more or less unlucky.

Let’s turn to the stats to see what I mean

Toronto Maple Leafs Strong Start

At 5v5, the Leafs are second in the NHL with a 58% puck-possession rating, and are getting 55% of the shots, 60% of the scoring chances, and 55% expected goals.  Despite this, they’ve actually been outscored 8-6 at 5v5 so far this year.  The Leafs own the 8th lowest shooting percentage in the league so far, and the 5th lowest PDO.

And despite this, they’ve actually got a winning record.  If you win the games where you are unlucky, you are going to have a very, very good record at the end of the year, so this is a great sign for Toronto.

When most other Leafs writers were calling for heads after last summer’s loss to the Blue Jackets, I wrote the team should get a pass because of the all-time ridiculous level of the Blue Jacket’s goalies.  Two different starters, in five games, put together a 50+ save streak each, while together holding the league’s best offensive team to a sub-2% 5v5 shooting percentage.

Statistically, the Leafs were the much better team and would have won that series most of the time by playing the exact same way.  In my opinion when your best strength fails you (the Leafs scoring) you’ve got to just chalk it up to the luck of the draw and move on.

If the Leafs had a losing record right now (which, given the scores of the games so far, could easily be the case) I would be writing the exact same thing I wrote in the summer.  Cumulatively, in the four games so far, the Leafs have been a borderline great team, and yet they could easily be sitting with a losing record.

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Therefore, the fact that they have won these games is a very good sign for their eventual overall record because we know that weird results can happen in short sample sizes.  If the Leafs continue at this level of play, they will win games by three or four goals regularly.

The goals are bound to go in eventually, and given the hilariously low shooting percentage of their last nine games (including the summer) they are going to break out like crazy any time now.

Here is a hyper-specific example of the kind of thing I mean: over his last nine games (counting this past summer) Auston Matthews has a 60% CF (extremely good, in case you don’t know) and there have been 100 scoring chances for the Leafs while he’s been on the ice, but in this time (it’s literal pure domination) the Leafs have been outscored 6-4.  (All stats naturalstattrick.com).

Additionally, Matthews has one individual goal in his last nine games at 5v5, despite getting 34 shots.  He is shooting 2.9% during this time.  This is a guy whose career shooting percentage is around 15%.

To sum up: The Leafs are getting good results despite deserving way better results and its’ fun to think that they’re still winning despite Auston Matthews being on a ridiculous cold streak, that would be concerning if not for his excellent numbers which are so dominating as to render any hyperbolic superlatives I could throw at them insufficient.

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Let’s face it, the Leafs should be a healthy 4-0 right now.  Montreal was lucky Matthews couldn’t score, while the Senators should have been buried before they even had a chance to score three times in the second period in game two.  Games three and four should have been complete blow-outs.  The Jets last night are lucky they didn’t lose by five goals.

Just wait till Matthews starts scoring!