Leafs postgame - "One shot scorer" scores winning goal on 227th shot of season

Cam Charron
February 08 2014 07:07PM

Shortly after Phil Kessel made the score 2-1 for Toronto, Craig Simpson (in his infinite wisdom) decided to call Kessel a "one shot scorer". I'm not sure about that description. Kessel came into the game third in the NHL in shots on goal. His shooting percentage of 11.2% is not an eyebrow-raising distance from the mean.

Kessel scores goals, lots of goals, because he takes a lot of shots, and because he has an excellent shot, and he uses it, game after game after game. He also belongs to the Toronto Maple Leafs for eight more years, and he helped the Leafs beat the Vancouver Canucks for the first time since before the first lockout. When the Leafs last beat the Canucks, Kessel was playing with the United States' national development program's U-17 squad. Yes, it's been a while. And the final was 3-1 for the Leafs.

THE RUNDOWN

For a while there, it looked like the Leafs were the anti-Leafs. They got up early in the shot count in the first period (they've been doing well in those lately) and drew some calls, but they ran into a pretty good goaltender in Roberto Luongo and wound up the period down 1-0 thanks to a pretty weak goal allowed by Jonathan Bernier.

Bernier though, was otherwise tight on the night, making some key stops around the net. Vancouver took a 1-0 lead into the third period, but the Canucks started to crack. While the Leafs were down 18-13 in overall shots on goal, counting misses and blocked shots, Toronto had a pretty decisive territorial advantage, and were down 1-0 on the night thanks to some bad luck—on a few rushes, the Canucks were able to get their stick on the puck first in their own slot, and the Leafs just weren't getting pucks on their sticks in the prime scoring areas despite the play taking place in some dangerous spots in front of Roberto Luongo.

They struck. First, Mason Raymond, then Kessel in the aforementioned introduction, and then the American Olympian James van Riemsdyk bounced a puck past the Canadian Olympian Roberto Luongo by banking it off the face of the Swedish Olympian Alexander Edler.

The Canucks, as Vancouverites have noticed lately, are not good, and lack the gamebreaking ability to get back into games like this. They don't lack "one shot scorers". They lack a player like Phil Kessel.

WHY THE LEAFS WON

Playing an injured, bad, struggling team at the end of a long road trip certainly helps, and if the Leafs weren't able to pull off this win, I think they may have never beaten the Canucks ever again. Despite being down 1-0 into the third, I didn't get the impression the Leafs were in a rut, and were probably a couple of shifts away with some good bounces to put them up 2-0.

Sure, credit Tyler Bozak for his diving backcheck leading up to the Kessel goal (holy crap he got two assists on the night) but the offseason pickup I'm planning on eating the most crow on is Jonathan Bernier. Even though Toronto had a territorial advantage, Vancouver had their chances from the midway point of the first until the end of the second, and the only goal he allowed was a weird one off of either Jake Gardiner's stick, Tim Gleason's arm, or both (CBC's best cameramen are already in Sochi so the backup camera crew had a great time trying to find the puck tonight).

BLUE WARRIOR

Somebody's going to chew me out in the comments if I don't mention Phil Kessel's tone-setting fight against Alex Burrows (?) to rally his troops before the start of the third period. (To be fair, I was down getting the pizza when the fight occurred. I'm going off rumour and hearsay and boxscores here)

I'm not sure if fights can influence how the puck bounces, but, sure, why not. The Maple Leafs have made me believe in a lot of illogical things this year with their recent play, so I'm not willing to count anything out.

Now we have the Olympic break. The Canucks took out another Leafs checking centreman in another incidental collision in Jay McClement. It looked like he smashed his head on the ice, and to the Leafs credit, they took him out of the lineup. However, it probably won't be too serious, and he gets a lot of time to heal himself up, even if Team Canada will miss McClement's services over in Sochi.

Recap over at Canucks Army.com. Their comment section will be more fun than ours.

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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 kesselkadri
February 08 2014, 08:47PM
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Phil is becoming more and more a complete player. Fights, gritty, skating, scoring, playmaking assists and defence. Man I love this guy.

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#2 Wetcoaster
February 08 2014, 09:44PM
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I noticed that maybe ironically, both teams have things that the other is badly lacking.

The Leafs have young talent and a hell of sniper in Kessel (I'm pretty certain that Gillis would personally burn down a couple orphanages to get that kind of goal scoring at this point).

The Canucks have reliable, defensively responsible defencemen (well, half of them were out of this game with injuries, but like Henrik Sedin, they do actually exist) and two-way wingers (I'm pretty sure Nonis would rather have both Higgins and Hansen over Clarkson. Same cap hit, and he still gets a set of abs for the cameras)

Torts has hair, Carlyle needs hair...

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#3 Jordan
February 08 2014, 10:01PM
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I think when someone is referred to as a "one shot scorer" or something like that, it usually means that they can score without the need for a rebound or any other garbage to get goals. I don't think Simpson believes that Kessel literally scores on every shot, so I don't understand what the issue is with this statement. Also, I don't think we can say that the Leafs winning is illogical anymore. What is becoming more evident is that some of the stats. models used for predicting team success is illogical and often incorrect.

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#4 Alex
February 08 2014, 11:11PM
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Jordan wrote:

I think when someone is referred to as a "one shot scorer" or something like that, it usually means that they can score without the need for a rebound or any other garbage to get goals. I don't think Simpson believes that Kessel literally scores on every shot, so I don't understand what the issue is with this statement. Also, I don't think we can say that the Leafs winning is illogical anymore. What is becoming more evident is that some of the stats. models used for predicting team success is illogical and often incorrect.

Right, the one anomaly completely throws the theory out of the window.

Sometimes I'm not sure if the commentariat here understands what terms like "odds" and "likely" mean.

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#5 millzy09
February 08 2014, 11:50PM
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Would you rather have Healy move up into the broadcast booth as the main colour man? Simpson is pretty good. I'm pretty sure what he means is that Kessel has the ability to score one-on-one with a single shot without the need for fakes or hands. Let's not take things too literally here...

Kessel didn't fight and his little dust up wasn't to set the tone. It was simply a man who was frustrated and then got punched in the face. I'd swing back too. It was a non-event.

Annoying...why do I even bother anymore?

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#6 leafnerd
February 09 2014, 06:27AM
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@Alex

The leafs look like an outlier data point and one common treatment in statistics could be to remove from the dataset. Even so, at the end of the day, call the leaf an anomaly does little to convince hockey management and skeptical fans to consider or adopt a model they have questioned for perhaps over two years.

BTW it is not accurate to say the leafs this season is anomaly. And further there have been other weak shot differential teams like the 2010/11 ducks that made the playoffs with 45% CF. [And of all possibilities coached by Carlyle]. There have good shot differential teams like NJD among others that have well underperformed their shot differential expectations.

Shot differentials is a decent model and better then goal differential but the examples of leafs, NJ and ducks etc is simply saying that the model can be even further improved.

Ignoring these kind of outlier results and pushing what looks like a good but still incomplete or overly simplistic theory is not the "scientific method"

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#7 Jordan
February 09 2014, 08:37AM
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leafnerd wrote:

The leafs look like an outlier data point and one common treatment in statistics could be to remove from the dataset. Even so, at the end of the day, call the leaf an anomaly does little to convince hockey management and skeptical fans to consider or adopt a model they have questioned for perhaps over two years.

BTW it is not accurate to say the leafs this season is anomaly. And further there have been other weak shot differential teams like the 2010/11 ducks that made the playoffs with 45% CF. [And of all possibilities coached by Carlyle]. There have good shot differential teams like NJD among others that have well underperformed their shot differential expectations.

Shot differentials is a decent model and better then goal differential but the examples of leafs, NJ and ducks etc is simply saying that the model can be even further improved.

Ignoring these kind of outlier results and pushing what looks like a good but still incomplete or overly simplistic theory is not the "scientific method"

All good points. I'd actually like to see a comparison this year of normal shot differential vs. Shot attempt differential vs. Goal differential and see how things line up. Bottom line, any prediction and analysis based on a single stat alone are explaining very little by themselves.

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#8 Jordan
February 09 2014, 08:43AM
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Alex wrote:

Right, the one anomaly completely throws the theory out of the window.

Sometimes I'm not sure if the commentariat here understands what terms like "odds" and "likely" mean.

There are many "anomalies". You have to look at teams, players, systems, and style of play to see that the odds on some teams falling in line with these stats are different than other teams. When models are incomplete, and explain very little (shot attempt differential)you are going to have anomalies and an inability to out odds on teams.

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#9 Leaf Fan in Mexico
February 09 2014, 10:01AM
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Too many guys armed with poor understanding of stats and too few games under their own belt, make for a bad commentary combination.

As a statistician with 32 years of hockey (yep i said it), i have to say that most of what gets said here is variously right and wrong.

Thats because unlike curling (thank God) hockey is such an unpredictable sport, particularly at the game level, where the outcome of a single game can be so highly influenced by the moment and momentum. Was Kessel's dust up important momentum changing stuff? Probably not in my opinion, but unless you were not on the bench its hard to say, though anecdotal correlation makes it hard not to draw this conclusion (as any good color analyst would make). Game stats may support this conclusion as well, but was it the cause of improvement in overall stats leading to the W? I dont know. All I know is that in any given game it is anybody's guess why a team puts it all together leading, for example, the Sabres to occasionally beat a team much higher in the standings.

Are the Leafs exhibiting an outlier data point (not actually sure if this means anything in the context in which it was written but if i understand it correctly, my gut (not my analysis) says definitively. But then again as our friend Mike points out on a regular basis, teams ebb and flow, and mini and mega trends must start somewhere. Its a good observation but the question really is if its true, can the Leafs build on some outlying performances? We all know its not unprecedented, actually its kind of regular, that a team does a few uncharacteristic things stats cant support, leading them to.... well the 8th place Kings winning the cup. In this and most cases we need to believe that post hoc statistic crunching conclusion drawing is relatively easy and of course, as they say, there are lies, damned lies and statistics...

Don't get me wrong, i love stats and live by them in many respects and they can even lead to a great armchair insights. But beyond averages very few stats hold much water if only because the maxim the more complex the stat the less stable its predictive capacity is absolutely true. Who or what can anticipate team mood changes, lucky bounces, or the sudden coming together of a team that redefines a trend or creates an outlier.

The only certainty TODAY is that after 60 games the leafs would be in the playoffs if they started tomorrow. Averages suggest they will end up in the playoffs, but just. Trends suggest they will make them comfortably. Only betting men draw the difference conclusively as to where they will end up. Sure I want them to catch fire and make them comfortably but averages preclude me from saying this certainty despite my desires for the torture that is the Leafs in the playoffs.

Finally, point: I have been down on what i view as Kessel's lack of leadership since he arrived and have believed all season long the Leafs are about two good acquisitions away from (barely) being an elite team of which surprisingly Gleeson may have been one. The other missing part is a forward who leads, makes everyone around him better for simply being on the ice. I have never seen Kessel as this type of player, goal scorer yes, making JVR or Lupul better not so much.

So my question is: can you lead without demonstrating leadership (i.e., making a team better for your being on it), or can you do it just by scoring points. My experience as a perenial second line centre suggests that often the leading scorer is not the team leader (often it was one of my gritty do it all damn the bridges attack second line winger).

Do we lack this in the Leafs or am i looking at a plate of crow to eat?

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#10 STAN
February 09 2014, 10:43AM
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The answer to Leaf Fan In Mexico's ultimate question is YES. Perfect examples - Gretzky scores, Messier leads; Bossy scores, Trottier leads, Kane scores, Toews lead, Kessel scores, someone else (other than Phaneuf) leads.

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#11 Dave
February 09 2014, 01:16PM
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@Leaf Fan in Mexico

Corsi and Fenwick (mainly Fenwick) are predictive in the sense that they do tell us what team is good and which are simply lucky. The Leafs seem to be an outlier, which is strange because they can look so awful (Think Early January) and so great (think right now).

Your Kings example only supports this fact even more. The Kings were no ordinary 8 seed; they had a Fenwick Close which was 2nd in the league and were a much better team than their place in the standings suggested. It isn't as surprising as one might think if they hadn't looked at the numbers.

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