Toronto Maple Leafs: They’re Mussels and Oysters, Not Pearls

TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 20: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers swings around Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO,ON - JANUARY 20: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers swings around Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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You’ll have to excuse the seafood jokes right off the line but there is a reason for it and that is because the Toronto Maple Leafs record is fishy. Don’t hold your gills because what comes next might not sit well, much like some bad shellfish.

First off let’s set the stat line out clear and simple. At 11-2-1 the Toronto Maple Leafs have the best record in the NHL. Their powerplay has been lights out, running along at 34.9% which is good for 5th in the league;

Auston Matthews is scoring game after game and tops the goal charts with 11 while Mitch Marner is a contender for the Art Ross, possibly the Hart too, at 3rd in the league in points. Between the pipes Frederik Andersen has been playing some of his best hockey in the last few games, collecting the most wins in the league.

Finally, the Leafs have outscored opponents 52 to 36.

Toronto Maple Leafs Fishy Record

So what is it about the Leafs that’s fishy? As clear as the water around the Great Barrier Reef, the North Division isn’t what most people expected it to be. Pundits and fans alike struggled before the season to pick who would win the re-constituted North.

Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg all stood a chance if they played to the best of their abilities. Vancouver was a dark horse contender and only Ottawa was seen as a team that really had no shot.

The top four teams in goals scored in the NHL are the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks in that order. Two of those teams, the Oilers and Canucks rank 1 and 3 respectively for goal allowed – the Ottawa Senators are second.

The only team that has been legitimately good in the North outside of Toronto has been the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs sit fifth in the standings (18 points) and while the Edmonton Oilers are only two points below them with 16 at 7th, that isn’t so much about how well Edmonton is doing and more so about how Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl once again are leading the league in points.

It isn’t the Edmonton Oilers so much as it, as it always is, The Connor and Leon Show. When Toronto played the Oilers they didn’t beat, nor did they lose to Edmonton, they lost to McDavid and Draisaitl, and they beat McDavid and Draisaitl.

The Jets have been a shadow of what was expected of them. Reigning Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck is 29th in the league in save percentage. In fairness to Hellebuyck, he has had little support from his defensive or offence most nights – the Jets have had six games decided by just one goal.

Yet this isn’t about the play of the Toronto Maple Leafs as it’s about their opposition.

Of course the Toronto Maple Leafs have the record they do because look at who they are playing. The Habs only go as far as Carey Price will take them, the same for the Oilers with McDavid and Draisaitl. The Jets will improve when Pierre Luc-Dubois draws into the line-up, but they need Vezina type play from Hellebuyck to stand a chance.

Ask yourself this question, if the Toronto Maple Leafs were consistently playing against the Boston Bruins (2nd in the league), or the Tampa Bay Lightning (3rd) like they do in a regular season, would they be able to dominate those teams in the way they can easily dominate and outscore their Canadian counterparts? The soft turnover and goal Montreal scored in the first minute of Wednesday’s game doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Next. Power Ranking the NHL's Contenders. dark

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a very good team, everyone can be clear on that, but it’s a stretch to say they are the best team in the league despite their record. When you’re only playing teams that are worse you’ll always have a better record. Let’s not fall into the “top of the league, havin’ a laugh” mindset yet because they are unproven against the league’s best, and who is hiding in the playoffs? The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

“So gimme some fin”