A Deep Dive Into How the Toronto Maple Leafs Top-Pairing Did Without Rielly

A statistical analysis of how Timothy Lijegren has played on the Top Pairing

Feb 10, 2024; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren (37) skates
Feb 10, 2024; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren (37) skates / Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
3 of 5

Game 2 vs Philadelphia

This is the game where the Leafs sleep-walked through 50 minutes, but Auston Matthews woke up long enough to score three goals and force overtime, where the Leafs won.

In Liljegren's second game on the top pairing, he didn't have such a good go of it. He did, however, get some excellent results, and overall, in the context of the full week of games, it's hard to be too critical of what turned out to be his worst performance.

Though Liljegren was praised for picking up two points, including an assist on the overtime winner, he didn't have as good of a game as he did against the Blue the game before.

In this game, Brodie played over 21 5v5 minutes while Liljegren played over 19.

Unfortunately, the Flyers possessed the puck for nearly 60% of the game when either of them was on the ice.

Liljegren finished with a 42% Corsi, while with him on the ice the shots were 12-8 for the Flyers, and worse, scoring chances were 14-6 (30%). (With Brodie on but Liljegren off, the Leafs did even worse).

Lucky for the Leafs, somehow they won their minutes 2-1 and despite their sub-par performance were graded generously in the press, ostensibly on a no-Rielly curve.

Liljegren finished this game with a 27% Expected Goals rating, while getting 4 minutes of power-play time and no PK time. As mentioned, he had 2 primary assists, one of them at 5v5 and one on the game winner in OT.

It is extremely hard to rate a game like this. When Liljegren played, the Flyers got a ton of chances and took advantage of a bad top pairing. Honestly, they seemed overmatched against their best players, and the Flyers' best players aren't even comparitively that good.

BUT, they had a ton of great results. The Leafs won, Liljegren had two points. The Leafs, outside of one ten minutes stretch where Matthews had a hattrick, played terribly. How much of that is on Liljegren? And we also routinely let Rielly get away with scoring but posting bad numbers by blaming TJ Brodie.

Overall, combine it with game one on the top pairing, and I am deeply impressed with Liljegren. Less so with Brodie. I was pretty harsh on Liljegren after this game, and I still somewhat stand by that assessment, but I think the first game, and the subsequent two games after this one, show that he is ready for these kinds of minutes, and so ultimiately I was probably unduley negative about this come at the time.