The Toronto Maple Leafs Power-Play Has An Easy Fix

OSHAWA, ON - JANUARY 12: Nick Robertson #16 of the Peterborough Petes shoots the puck during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on January 12, 2020 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
OSHAWA, ON - JANUARY 12: Nick Robertson #16 of the Peterborough Petes shoots the puck during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on January 12, 2020 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off their best ever regular season, but what is crazy is how good it could have been if their power-play didn’t completely disappear after 22 games.

Not only did the Leafs power-play cost them a ton of regular season points, but they also lost to Columbus last year, and Montreal in game one (at least partly) because the PP couldn’t score.

The numbers of the Leafs PP are shocking, considering who plays on it.

From the first game of the season to the end of February, the Leafs were tied for first with 22 power-play goals.  They had played 22 games.  That’s exactly one per game.  Not bad.  Great even.  They were in first place.

Then, the slump.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Power-Play

Since March 1st, 34 games (reg.season) and nine goals.  Less than one every three games.  How many points did that cost them?  A lot. It easily cost them the Presidents Trophy.

Now, the Leafs are 7th during this time in expected-goals, so it’s not like they’ve been playing poorly – they just can’t score.  I feel like most of it is probably just luck, and the rest of it mental.  However, that doesn’t mean you should just change nothing.

If I had to choose a reason that it was so bad, I would say that the team is over-reliant on getting the puck to Matthews, and that since both Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly are not threats to shoot, it’s too easy and predictable to defend them, despite their talent.

The Leafs could easily fix this problem by inserting Nick Robertson into the lineup (health status currently uncertain, however). Robertson has the team’s second best shot, and frankly, he’s got one of the best shots in the NHL.  (all stats naturalstattrick.com).

The Leafs should copy Tampa’s PP formation, where Hedman acts as a fulcrum and dishes the puck to either Stamkos or Kucherov so that they can blast it.  Kucherov might have the best shot in hockey outside Matthews and Ovechkin, but Stamkos is up there too and it means you can’t just focus on one guy.

The only other player on Toronto who is going to make room for Matthews is Nick Robertson.  If Rielly simply alternates between the two players, with two other players in front fighting for rebounds and screening the goalie, the power-play will be much more successful.

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This could also allow you to set up a second unit with Marner and Nylander where they aren’t so concerned about getting Auston the puck that they all-but eliminate their own creativity.