Leafs postgame - Help, I can't find the panic button on my keyboard!

Cam Charron
November 30 2013 09:04PM

Losing streaks suck, and it feels like it's been a long time since there's been any sort of air of vulnerability with regards to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even during the stretches last year when they were really chasing the game, they were winning games. The Leafs wrap up November with 11 points in 13 games. Last season, their worst 13-game stretch was 12 points, but that's a little corrupted thanks to a five-game losing streak from Games 25 to 29. The worry with the Leafs isn't the record, it's just that they haven't strung together any good play over a decent stretch since the solid start.

It's not consistency that's the issue, it's that the team is too consistent. Every game is the same story: the Leafs get out-shot, they'll take too many penalties, and the goaltending has to be close to perfect if they want a win. No different in Montreal Saturday night. They were out-shot 39-36 despite trailing for almost the entire game, and lost 4-2 to Le Club Hockey.

THE RUNDOWN

It doesn't matter if the Leafs give up a lot of shots because they don't give up a lot of quality shots:

 

This sequence was an excellent stretch pass from P.K. Subban to Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty got a shot and three different whacks—he probably would have had a couple more because Mark Fraser was just so slow in trying to catch up to Pacioretty. I've been long an advocate of Fraser sitting for a game. Nothing personal against the guy, it's just business, but he doesn't have enough mobility to be an NHL defenceman. What means he likely won't is because Cody Franson went out tonight with the dreaded "lower body injury" and didn't even dress.

It looked like the Leafs tied it up a short while later, but Dion Phaneuf's apparent goal was disallowed because James van Riemsdyk is in the crease. Certainly the right call according to the rulebook, but not one often seen in practice:

Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside his goal crease.

Before the period was out, Subban scored after a faceoff loss by Tyler Bozak, a lazy defensive effort by Phil Kessel and a pretty weak save attempt by Jonathan Bernier. Guess which component the press is going to make a bigger stink about?

Things appeared to fall apart late in the second period. Tomas Plekanec scored at the end of another one of those long shifts the Leafs just couldn't clear the puck, and then Pacioretty scored his second, shorthanded. 

Still, it wasn't all bad. 4-0 at that point, the Leafs scored just 48 seconds after the Pacioretty goal, on one of the most amazing shots you'll ever see off the stick of James van Riemsdyk:

And then Mason Raymond stuck home a rebound of a Paul Ranger shot:

In the third period there wasn't an awful lot of push by Toronto. Carey Price had to make a couple of good saves, but so did Bernier. In the third, the Habs out-shot Toronto 14-12 and the scoring chances were probably a similar ratio.

WHY THE LEAFS LOST

The Leafs have been getting some absurdly bad luck lately. It seems like they've been on the wrong side of close calls, and goalies have just stopped making saves. Just an .870 save percentage for Bernier and James Reimer during this four-game slide.

Where once the Leafs were a poor team whose problems were disguised by good luck, what we've seen recently is a team whose problems are exacerbated by bad luck. I don't think it's time to hit the panic button yet, but Leafs brass should be scared enough to seriously look at sitting the players with worse shot differentials and playing the ones with the best shot differentials and change the breakout. It seems they have one or two of those long shifts against every game lately, and that strategy looks less good when you're no longer scoring on your odd-man rush opportunities.

BLUE WARRIOR

Phil Kessel uncharacteristically made it two empty nets, so by default this lands on James van Riemsdyk. It'd be nice if we had a game soon where this was actually a not-obvious section. Credit to Colt Knorr backing down from George Parros in the first period, since he also forgot to backcheck and Parros generated a good chance off of a 3-on-2. I guess he did fight though, and commenters want me to mention it.

No. No they didn't. The effects of a fight are felt purely within the room and commenters never, ever, ever mention the zillions of times where a fight has no visible effect on the game. The imagined times a fight has an effect are almost purely due to confirmation bias, and it is impossible to predict whether a player "jump-started" by his teammate fighting will perform any better on the ice.

SHOT CHART

Via ExtraSkater:

Those four shots on Pacioretty's breakaway were the difference at the start, and it was relatively even throughout otherwise.

NOTES

  • Just one note via ExtraSkater.com. I don't have a lot of points to make tonight, but Douglas Murray wound up tonight with his first game of over 50% Corsi, which should be as clear of an indicator of the Leafs issues as anything. I don't know the fix, but it would be nice if management changed something. Anything. We're not talking about rotating in fourth line wingers anymore. Whether Carter Ashton or Trevor Smith play or not has become akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
     
  • Great job Cam. Make a Titanic analogy a few paragraphs after writing about how the panic button shouldn't be pressed yet.

AT LEAST STEVE GOT PAID TO WATCH THIS GAME

Lucky bud

PANIC BUTTON

DON'T TOUCH IT YET

Might as well go out for a rip.

 

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Dave
November 30 2013, 09:56PM
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I want to see how many commentators today want to talk about how useless of a stat Corsi is. Leafs have been the product of bad luck lately but it looks to me as if poor play is catching up with them, if anything.

I don't feel confident with the Leafs upcoming schedule either. That, with the lack of mobility the Leafs have to make a move because of their cap situation (Thanks for Bozak, Nonis!) makes my finger inch closer and closer to the panic button.

Things aren't rosey anymore in Leafs Land

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#2 STAN
November 30 2013, 11:02PM
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Liles would have easily caught Pacioretty, and then played the puck not the man.

As Dave mentioned, the Leafs are in CAP HELL, so no room for an older, wiser, mobile dude like Liles, who might steady the defense.

I'm curious whether there are cases to be made that at the one-third mark, Nonis' makeover is paying dividends?

Would the Leafs be THIS outplayed every night with the speed and tenacity of Komarov, MacArthur and Frattin? Could they use Grabovski's 22 points? (and MacArthur's 19) Is Kostka just as good as Fraser and/or Ranger? Is Bernier that much of an upgrade over Scrivens?

Now, I like Bolland and Raymond (two guys for about $4.3M). Nonis should be commended for those moves. But as I've written a few times, Clarkson is making about twice what he should and combined with Bozak, I'm not sure the GM can make a winning trade.

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#3 millzy09
November 30 2013, 11:38PM
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Grabovski and MacArthur got those points with the Washington Capitals and Ottaw Senators. Scrivens has a league best S% behind a stingy defence. Those are not Leafs totals. Komarov would have gone anyway unless maybe they threw a blank check at him...then everyone would complain about how much he makes and he would get booed out of the city anyway.

I am hitting the panic button because of the upcoming schedule. If easy points aren't even easy (see Buffalo), then tough points are going to be impossible. The personnel is there up front, so lets drop the whole woulda, shoulda, coulda on hypothetical numbers. The defensive corps is lacking and the system is flawed. Those are the issues.

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#4 Quasijr
December 01 2013, 04:30AM
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The problem is every team in the NHL knows our defence is very weak, a dump in pass followed by a strong fore check means we give up the puck. Fraser was glacial last night & all the dump & chase was on his side. Since we do not have a cycle game we cannot generate any offensive zone time so its one shot & done. Phil is the worst offender of this. Though tonight the top line played great. The top line when it settles down off the rush & gets into a cycle game is lethal. Phils under rated passing Bozak & Reems fore check screens & speed are excellent. Only the 4th line Mason Raymond & Dion were the only other commendable players. The rest of these players better pull up they're hockey socks & get with the program

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#5 Jeremy Ian
December 01 2013, 08:20AM
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"Great job Cam. Make a Titanic analogy a few paragraphs after writing about how the panic button shouldn't be pressed yet."

Good one!

When you start getting consensus that the system is not working, then you know there is a problem. Esp when it comes to the Leafs, a team blessed and encumbered with a fan base that can't decide whether to defend the team to the death or glare at all its shortcomings as if they were fatal flaws. I know, I am one of those.

The trouble is two fold.

One, the system isn't working. Cam's been prophetic.

Two, we had rising expectations going into this season. After last year's run, the rhetoric of a CEO with a personal Stanley Cup route, a lot of offseason moves, and a payroll that hit the contractual ceiling, everyone associated with the team had high hopes.

We are suffering from a phenomenon called "the Tunnel Effect." Here's how it goes: you are stuck in traffic going into a tunnel. The lane beside you starts to move forward. You feel great thinking that soon your lane will start to move. After a while, when you are still glued to your place, you go from feeling elation to outrage -- convinced that someone up front is screwing you. So, the Tunnel Effect is when you swing from elation to outrage though you are objectively no worse off. Though in this case, we may actually be worse off to boot!

Whether you can fix things by moving around pieces is unclear. Mark Fraser in or out (out, in my view), pull the plug on the Ranger experiment (pull it, in my view), create a new third defensive pairing... Get Carlyle to make a decent fourth line etc. etc. We could come up with a lot of moves.

But there's a lot of talent on this team that's being squandered by a strategy that's not working.

So, what comes first? Do you move parts around or do you change the strategy with the existing parts? Most management theory would advocate both. But it would also say that moving parts around in the absence of a change of strategy is a mistake, often motivated by an effort to recover the feeling elation that your lane will start to move.

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#6 Derek
December 01 2013, 07:11AM
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@millzy09

@millzy09 "Scrivens has a league best S% behind a stingy defence." Sorry, if that doesn't work to explain why Bernier had a high save percentage in LA, you can't point to it as why Scrivens has a high save percentage either. Either Reimer is hands down better than Bernier, or Scrivens is better than people gave him credit for.

(It's probably the latter)

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#7 Vik
November 30 2013, 10:42PM
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Given the upcoming schedule, I don't think it would be unfair to hit the panic button.

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#8 STAN
December 01 2013, 10:07AM
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If you were to take an anonymous poll of NHL executives, I bet they'd vote Randy Carlyle the most overrated coach, filling the void let by Ron Wilson.

I can't recall seeing such Leafs mess.

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#9 leafnerd
December 01 2013, 10:26AM
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In the last three games the leafs have had a >1000 PDO while the opposition has had a less then 1000 PDO and yet the leafs still lost.

Further the Fenwick Close vs the habs favoured the leafs last night and again the leafs lost. The recent three game skid is not because of the leafs are getting outshot but rather the balance of the evidence suggest the reason is poor special teams. And PK and PP are correlated about 10% each of winning each.

The leafs are certainly losing now but PDO has not regressed in fact it is often >1000 when they lose. It is true that 5v5 SH% has fallen off the last month but SV% has improved . More dramatically what has occurred is a collapse of leafs special teams.

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#10 Jeremy Ian
December 01 2013, 10:29AM
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@leafnerd

Do we have data on what causes Leaf penalties? It's my impression that an inordinate number come from defensive zone mishaps. In other words, if special teams are a weakness, don't put yourself into a position in which you need them... Just a thought.

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#11 millzy09
December 01 2013, 11:58AM
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@Derek

Bernier never had a high save percentage in LA. It was around .921 if I remember correctly. That is average. I never said that Bernier is better than Scrivens, I'm just saying Scrivens wouldn't be the saviour here.

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#12 Back in Black
December 01 2013, 12:25PM
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@leafnerd

I would suggest that getting out-shot was one reason the team lost to Pittsburgh.

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#13 leafnerd
December 01 2013, 01:36PM
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@Back in Black

There is a difference between what I think. And what the data shows.

Looking at the facts, I don't see evidence that the leafs regression was due to being outshot but it may still the case. I see more evidence that non 5v5 factors played a role.

Also, none of this should be construed as a slam against advanced stats or a statement that the leafs won't regress. I'm simply saying people may have their causation wrong here as the data is at best inconclusive

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#14 GC
December 01 2013, 08:31PM
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Great post, and I may not share the same sort of optimism as some of the other readers here. It may indeed be time to hit some form of a panic button. Jake Gardiner has demonstrated he isn't what the Leafs need yet continues to showcase trade bait realty. Its time to strengthen the Blue line and/or get another top 6 FWD

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#15 LonnyBohonos
December 02 2013, 12:25PM
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I traveled to Mtl and bought tickets off a scalper in hopes of catching a great game

Is there a 'refund' button?

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