The Toronto Maple Leafs have left a lot of points on the table this season against the NHL’s worst teams.
A common theme about the Toronto Maple Leafs is that they play down to their competition.
Like most narratives that spring up during a hockey season, this one is easy to digest, seems true and likely has some kernel of truth to it, but is also quite dumb.
It seems true because the Leafs would likely be in first place overall in the entire league if they just beat the teams they should be able to toy with, on a consistent basis.
But it’s dumb because a look into the statistics of pretty much all of these types of losses shows that the Leafs were the better team in each game.
Hockey is a great game to watch but it’s horribly designed. One player dictates the outcome of the game, and that players performance is almost completely unpredictable.
We are, of course, speaking of goalies.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Losses to Bad Teams Don’t Mean Much
The goalie is almost completely independent of his team, and therefore his play often sabotages a great performance or rescues a bad one. Either way, they add an element of uncontrollable randomness to the game that means the best team doesn’t always win. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Over the course of the season, there are always going to be weird outcomes – but it would be even more weird to play an entire season without seeing crazy stuff happen.
The Leafs losing twice to Arizona, three times to Buffalo, and however many times to the Canadiens, is annoying, but that’s about all it is – there is no deeper meaning here about the Leafs or their psychology or their make up as a team.
It’s mostly just an anomaly, coupled slightly with the fact that most of these games feature the Leafs back-up goalie against players with nothing to play for but the pride of taking one from the team half their players probably grew up cheering for.
Every time these games happen, people make way too much of them. Same with blowing huge leads to Colorado or Florida. Weird things happen, and they don’t always portend doom, just like beating Carolina and Tampa doesn’t automatically mean you’ll win a cup.
The Leafs are 4th overall despite being 3rd last in 5v5 save percentage. This means more for their future success – because it means they are the rare team not at the mercy of their goalie – than any game against Buffalo.
So while it does suck to lose to the worst teams, it really is just a random occurrence and not something that should take on much, if any, meaning.