The Toronto Maple Leafs are obviously my favorite hockey team.
This website is dedicated to covering the Toronto Maple Leafs, exclusively.
So it is always going to be the case that any analysis that follows a loss, and isn’t just a rage filled screed about how much the team sucks, is going to face accusations of excuse making.
So be it.
Some Toronto Maple Leafs Excuses
One person’s excuses are another person’s reasons. I find that, in most cases, cynics are wrong and blind to things like context and nuance. They aren’t the bastions of objectivity they want you to think that they are – they will hate and fight against anything that isn’t their predisposed opinion.
On last night’s game: Any game you play without your shut-down pairing that you lose because of poor defense and bad goaltending isn’t really a concern. Jake Muzzin is a star defenseman who regularly has a huge impact on games. If he is out, this isn’t the same team. And yet, you might consider – they were the best team in that game anyways.
On Blowing Leads: Who cares? The order in which the goals are scored is mostly irrelevant. It’s really a lot like a logical fallacy in that it seems like it would matter, but it’s only because of our own psychology that this is so – the fact that the Leafs have blown several recent leads is nothing more than an anomaly and it isn’t worth any attention or concern. If you blow a late lead, that’s different, but in most cases, a team blowing an early lead is irrelevant. In fact, trying to sit on an early lead is about the worst hockey strategy there is.
The Leafs have blown leads of 3-1 and 4-1 quite frequently of late. I would call that an anomaly and never worry about it again.
On their recent record: The Leafs have not had a negative expected goals and lost the game since December 9th. That means that a) they have won a couple games they didn’t deserve to, as any team with their record will, and b) they have lost a couple games they didn’t deserve to.
Fact: by expected goals (which, by the way, better predict the future than actual goals due to goalie performances being so random) the Leafs record is 6-1 in their last seven games. Their actual record during this time is 4-2-1.
The reason? Jack Campbell is ice-cold.
The point: people are making too big of a deal about blowing leads and not getting the results they want.
More excuses: They are just now ramping back up to playing frequently, after having one game in three weeks, and like three over a month. All of these games are on the road, and in fact they are in the midst of a two-and-a-half week-six-game road trip where they play no less than four of the NHL’s best teams. Again, during these games, they’ve played in such a way that they would normally win almost all of them.
Ergo: The Toronto Maple Leafs are 3rd in the NHL by expected goals on the season, and the reason they are “just” sixth overall (and if they won all their games in hand to Tampa, they’d be the NHL’s #1 team) is because they are the NHL’s 13th luckiest shooting team and are ranked 14th in 5v5 save percentage. (naturalstattrick.com).
The bigger the gap between a team’s overall ranking (or their expected goals) and a team’s PDO *(combined 5v5 save and shooting percentage) the better team they are. The Leafs are sixth overall and 11th overall by PDO. This isn’t as big of a gap as Boston or Edmonton have (watch for both teams to go on huge runs soon) but it’s still a pretty big indication that the Leafs are for real.
The Coup De Grace: The Toronto Maple Leafs have picked up an astounding 76% of the points available to them since October 27th when they put their early season struggles behind them. That’s second only to Colorado during this time.
The Cynics aren’t worth listening to. Now that the team is actually good, their complaints about the GM and the make-up of the team have been exposed by facts as being as ridiculous and silly as they always were. Sure, some people won’t buy in until they win it all, and even then, some “Leaf fans” will be mad they didn’t win in the way they wanted them to, but some people also believe the earth is flat.
You should pay attention to the former as much as you do the latter. This is the best iteration of the Toronto Franchise in 55 years. This is the NHL’s best team. They should be considered Stanley Cup favorites. Their GM should be offered a ten year deal. We should celebrate, venerate and enjoy them, because what they are currently doing is extremely rare.