Toronto Maple Leafs: A Lesson on Playing Well and Losing

The Toronto Maple Leafs were shut-out for the first time this season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs may be – by far – the NHL’s best offensive team, but last night they couldn’t score a goal.  They were shutout once last year and twice in the playoffs, according to last night’s broadcast.  This time the honour goes to the Calgary Flames and David Rittich.

It’s going to happen sometimes.  Sometimes a goalie just has a great game.

Ironically though, despite not scoring, despite having much of their depth sapped through injury, the Leafs played one of their most dominant games of the season.  And that was just at regular strength. (all stats

They also had about one-hundred (OK, seven, but still a lot) power-plays.  The Leafs not scoring on seven straight power-plays is probably roughly equivalent to the odds of them blowing a 5-1 lead to the last place team with 20 minutes and 50 seconds left in the game.

C’est la vie.

Toronto Maple Leafs Played Great

The Leafs had 60% of the shot-attempts, meaning they controlled play at 5v5.  Especially in the second and third periods, where they were pretty dominant, at 68 and 72 percent, respectively.

The Leafs had 53% of the shots, 60% of the scoring chances, 70% expected-goals……but at 5v5 they let in one goal and scored zero.   And those seven power-plays!

What are you going to do? A lot of the time you play good and don’t win. Other times you play badly but you eke it out.  Sometimes you are one of the best players on your team every single night but you represent everything the media doesn’t like about your GM and you have to put up with nonsense criticism based purely on ignorance because they can’t very well criticize a GM in first place.

Last night, with Hyman, Simmonds and Thornton all missing from the lineup, Keefe put Tavares with Matthews and Marner for a super line.  It backfired big time. Matthews’ streak of goals ended, and with Tavares the superline managed only a 37.5% share of the shot-attemts.

Nylander was paired with Alex Barabanov who got his first honest shot at the NHL last night.  They did not disappoint.  Dangerous all night, they had the puck the entire time they were on the ice, posting a 74% CF and outshooting the Flames 8-3.

Can’t write up this game without quickly mentioning a few more awesome players from last night.

Alex Kerfoot – completely dominant.

Mikko  Lehtonen – best game he’s had in the NHL.  80% puck possession.

Zach Bogosian – He’s winning me over.

Overall, the Toronto Maple Leafs will usually win this game without the 5v5 dominance, just due to the seven power-plays.  But that is why this game is instructive: you don’t always score when you play good enough to score, and you don’t always win when you deserve to.