#9. Special Teams
Last year, the Toronto Maple Leafs won their division despite essentially not having a power-play for the last half of the season. (Special teams stats from slindenberg.com)
For reasons that are inexplicable, beyond just bad luck, the Leafs power-play was cruising along as the best in hockey when it suddenly became impossible for the team to score with the man advantage.
They switched up the special teams coaches, and this year has been a return to the top.
To date, the Leafs have scored at nearly a 30% clip on the power-play, far and away ahead of everyone else in the NHL. Their penalty kill has almost been as good, ranked 4th overall, but scoring so much shorthanded that they’re essentially the best PK team as well.
The Leafs have the best combined special teams in hockey, and only Carolina is even close to them.
The Leafs have allowed just 3 short handed goals, and only one team has allowed less. The Leafs lead the league with 11 shorties for themselves, thanks to the duel PK powers of Marner and Mikheyev.
With the best special teams in the NHL, the Leafs will have a major advantage over whoever they end up playing. The power-play is lethal and the PK is almost as good. They entered last year’s playoffs with a big question mark in this category, so even if you ignore all nine of these other reasons, the special teams should make you at least slightly more confident than usual.