From October 27th to February 9th, the Toronto Maple Leafs played 36 games and went 28-6-2.
This was the second-best record in the NHL over this time, and the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up an insane 81% of the points available to them.
That is almost a half-season of playing at a level of the best team’s of all-time. The 1977 Montreal Canadiens won 83% of the points available to them, while the 1978 Montreal Canadiens posted an 81%.
The Leafs played a half-season at the rate of the best team of all-time. Since then, they’ve had some of the worst goaltending in the NHL. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
How Concerned Should We Be About the Toronto Maple Leafs Current Play?
We should not be concerned at all.
Jack Campbell was the best goalie in the NHL for the year of 2021. That spanned two seasons, and combined, during the calendar year, he was the best.
Since the Leafs played 36 games of all-time hockey, they have played 12 games of under .500 hockey. They have the 31st ranked save percentage during this time (5v5). They are the 5th lowest PDO team in the NHL.
As annoying as it is, this stuff is pretty random at the pro level. We want to pretend that it’s within control of the athletes, because, psychologically, the reason we like sports in the first place is that they act as a metaphor life and trick us into thinking events are controllable.
You don’t give up on a player who was the Best in the World for an entire year, after a two-month slump. Goalies in the NHL have performances that fluctuate to the extreme. The best goalie changes constantly.
Even if you could choose any goalie you wanted, you’d still be rolling the dice. The only goalie in the last ten years to win 2 Vezina’s is Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s Florida Panthers rank 29th in 5v5 save percentage over the same time the Leafs are 31st.
The odds are heavily in the Leafs favor that one of their goalies gets it together to the point where goaltending isn’t a problem.
The Leafs are 28th overall in 5v5 save-percentage this season, and are one of the only contending teams with a PDO under 100. Over time that is almost guaranteed to rise, and since they’ve done as well as they have with bad goaltending, they’re going to clearly be unstoppable when the goalies start to click.
In conclusion, the goalie is the most important player on the team, because he has the biggest impact on the outcome. If you’re out performing your goalie – which Toronto is by the largest margin in the NHL – then that is probably the biggest indicator of future success.
The shaky goaltending is surely making all Toronto Maple Leafs fans nervous, but if the defense was struggling, or if the team couldn’t defend or score, those are all tougher things to fix. You don’t have to fix the goalies, you just have to wait out the slump.
In the NHL, a great goalie can prop up a bad team (see the New York Rangers) but if you have a great team, all you need is an average goalie, and the Leafs can be assured of that, at the very least.