Ninja posed an interesting question in the comments that I think deserves a post of its own.
We both know the Leafs didnâ€™t block shots last year as a general rule and still managed to be very good in the shots allowed category. This year, they seem to be giving up the body slightly more often, but the shots against are way up. The zone coverage is comparable to last year, except the forwards seem to be missing assignments or switches with more regularity. How do you reconcile these quasi-facts with the Leafs shots allowed averages of last year?
Iâ€™m starting to think the Leafs didnâ€™t allow alot of shots because other teams werenâ€™t desperately peppering the puck at the Leafsâ€™ net because the Leafs were rarely in the lead. Other teams could afford to take their foot off the gas, and I think this is partially responsible for the shots-allowed statistic.
Please share your thoughts on the subject, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say on this in the coming weeks as the season starts to really take shape.
I have thought about this and while it is possible, I don’t think it is completely true. Essentially what you are saying is that the better a team is (offensively in particular), the more shots the opposition gets because it just starts firing away to try to play catch up.
Looking at last years shots against stats we find that the worst 10 teams are Boston, Washington, Montreal, Philadelphia, NY Islanders, Atlanta, Nashville, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Calgary. Ottawa was 11th.
Two things come to mind from that group. 1. Most of the teams on the list were bad teams and 2. Those that weren’t bad teams also scored a fair number of goals (Pittsburgh, Nashville, Buffalo, Calgary and Ottawa were top 7 in goals for). That may lend some support to what you are saying. But the other two top 7 teams in goals for were Colorado and San Jose and positions 8-10 were Toronto, Anaheim and Detroit. Those teams ranked first (Detroit), third (San Jose), 5th (Anaheim), seventh (Toronto) and 13th (Colorado) in shots against so I am not seeing a distinct correlation.
Let’s take a look at last years games in which the Leafs gave up fewer than 25 shots.
Oct. 28 – 22 shots against 5-4 Shootout win over Montreal
Nov 20 – 21 shots against in 4-2 win over NY Islanders
Nov. 24 – 23 shots against in 7-1 win over Washington
Nov 28 – 24 shots against in 4-1 loss to Boston
Dec. 2 – 22 shots against in shootout loss to Montreal
Dec. 16 – 13 shots against in 9-2 win over NY Rangers
Dec 26 – 21 shots against in 4-3 win over Minnesota
Jan 11 – 24 shots against in 4-2 win over Buffalo
Jan 13 – 21 shots against in 6-1 loss to Vancouver
Jan 16 – 23 shots against in 4-2 win over Tampa
Feb 6 – 20 shots against in 2-1 win over St. Louis
Feb 13 – 20 shots against in 3-2 shootout loss to NY Islanders
Feb 20 – 21 shots against in 3-0 loss to Boston
Feb 24 – 24 shots against in 5-2 win over Philadelphia
Feb 26 – 24 shots against in 5-4 loss to Montreal
Mar 6 – 24 shots against in 3-0 win over Washington
Mar 10 – 22 shots against in 4-3 OT win over Ottawa
Mar 13 – 21 shots against in 3-2 win over Tampa
Mar 24 – 20 shots against in 4-1 win over Buffalo
Most of those games are wins (or very close games) but if Ninja’s theory held true when they had leads (which occurs when you win) opposing teams would shoot more and get more shots. That doesn’t seem to be the case. So what is the situation when the Leafs do give up a lot of shots? Here are the games in which the Leafs gave up 35 or more shots:
Oct. 4 – Gave up 36 shots in a 4-1 loss to Ottawa, Leafs never held the lead and Sens had a 3-0 lead mid-way through second period.
Oct. 26 – Gave up 40 shots in a 7-2 blowout loss to Ottawa.
Nov 2 – Gave up 43 shots in a 4-2 loss to Florida, Florida had a 2-0 lead midway through the first, a period in which the Leafs gave up 23 shots.
Nov 6 – Gave up 41 shots to Philadelphia in a 4-1 win. Game was tied 1-1 heading into the third until Antropov scored at the 7:18 point.
Nov 9 – Gave up 37 shots to Boston in a 6-4 win. Leafs had a 4-0 lead by 4:04 of the second period despite Boston having 19 shots in the first (and they only got 7 in the third).
Nov 16 – Gave up 36 shots in a 2-1 OT loss to Boston.
Dec 5 – Gave up 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to Atlanta – Leafs scored 2 in the first but gave up 5 goals in the third on only 8 shots. Atlanta had 12 shots in first and 17 in second.
Dec 19 – Gave up 36 shots in a 7-3 loss to Florida. Leafs scored early in the first but Florida score 3 late first period goals and 3 more second period goals.
Jan 18 – Gave up 41 shots in a 3-2 win over Florida. Leafs led 3-0 by middle of second period before Florida came on strong getting 14 shots in second and 18 shots in third.
Jan 31 – Gave up 38 shots in a 2-1 win over Rangers. Rangers scored mid-point of second, Leafs quickly replied and took the lead 6 minutes into third.
Feb. 15 – Gave up 36 shots in a 4-2 win over Philadelphia. Leafs led 3-0 fourteen minutes into first, Philadelphia dominated 3 period outshooting Leafs 16-3.
March 8 – Gave up 40 shots in a 5-1 loss to Ottawa. Ottawa was up 3-0 four minutes into second and outshot the Leafs 23-7 in the first.
March 31 – Gave up 36 shots to Pittsburgh in a 5-4 OT loss. Leafs entered third period up 4-2 before Pittsbrugh came on strong getting 14 shots and 2 goals to tie.
Not many of those games fit the profile Ninja describes. That being, the Leafs have a lead and the other team peppers Leaf goalies to try to get back in the game. The games that would match that description are Nov 9th vs Boston, Jan. 18 vs Florida, Feb 15th vs Philadelphia and March 31 against Pittsburgh. A couple other games were close games from start to end (Nov 16 vs Boston and Jan 31 to Rangers) but most of the other games were blowouts at the Leafs expense. So, I am not sure one can conclude that the Leafs didn’t give up a lot of shots because they didn’t have leads.
What might be concerning though is the number of shots the Leafs were giving up to bad teams like Florida, Boston and Philadelphia. Combine that with the number of times they have blown leads in the third period (both last year and this year) and it tells me that they might be a lack of focus on this team and letting their foot off the pedal when they shouldn’t. If that is the case it sounds like it could be more of a leadership or coaching problem, not a skill/ability problem. Paul Maurice hasn’t received much blame for the state of the Leafs (some actually praised him for almost getting the Leafs into the playoffs last year) but has he really done a good job? I am not so sure.
Update: Alan Ryder has an interesting look at the Leafs early season woes. His final paragraph reads:
If I were Leafs coach Paul Maurice, I would be deeply worried about this picture. Too many penalties, an ineffective penalty kill and too many shots on goal while even handed. Add to that a struggling power play and you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with the systems that have been installed for this team.