December 12 2013 09:28PM
Thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs Twitter account for sparing me the trouble of having to find an appropriate picture for this mess.
That's all it was. Less than 24 hours after their best performance on the season, despite a loss, to Los Angeles, everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Toronto in St. Louis and it's coming more clear that the team has no ability to play against the big dogs in the league. Los Angeles was an anomaly, and it's not outside the realm of plausibility that the real Kings a night ago had simply gone to the Loose Moose and switched places with a beer league team, figuring they wouldn't need to bother showing up against the Leafs.
Fatigue is one thing. Going from your best game in quite some time, to the absolute worst since the pre-Brian Burke era, is quite another. The Leafs came out flat and left flatter, with the score made respectable thanks to three great saves made by their starting goalie in the first ten minutes, four goal-posts by St. Louis, and a fluke bounce off Alex Pietrangelo. 6-3 was the final, and to quote Joe Bowen from back when the score was 2-0: "it's not even that close."
December 12 2013 01:25PM
Counting shots and shots against for a single game can be somewhat misleading—late in games, when a team is trailing, they'll tend to shoot more. The best solution to this problem is to avoid counting shots during the parts of the game where it's in one team's interest to shoot the puck more than the other team's. We call this "score-close" or "close" situations: either the game is tied, or there's just one goal separating the teams in the first or second periods.
The Leafs have just one game this season where they've earned a higher rate of the close shots than against Los Angeles, where they out-shot the Kings 30-16, or earning a 65.2% shots rate. That was the 4-2 win against Buffalo, where they had a 66.7% shot share (out-shooting Buffalo 8-4 in close situations. Hardly a large-enough sample size for this project). What I found amazing is not that the Leafs had a higher share of shots than their opponent, but that it happened against Los Angeles, one of the dominant shooting teams in the league.
The question is… can they have a repeat performance, in St. Louis, on the road, on the second half of a back-to-back? Let's consult our magic 8 ball.
December 12 2013 12:51PM
What have we done to anger you, oh Hockey Gods?
December 11 2013 08:57PM
I don't know how many times over the last 70 or so games I've looked at an empty page, attempting to make sense of the game I just saw, trying to explain a game that was beyond explaining. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their fair share of games that they didn't deserve to win, either because of a timely goal, a timely save or just straight-up voodoo. In a game like hockey, were process rarely conflates with results in a real small sample, it can be difficult to be analytical about a single game. Sometimes things were just not meant to be.
But I have never been so shocked about a Leafs loss as this one. Perhaps Game 4 of the series against the Bruins, where the Leafs got everything together for half a game and took it to one of the best teams in the conference offensively, defensively, and physically, only to lose the game on several botched coverages in the OT. This was similar. The Leafs were all over Los Angeles, and it was just one play that led to a two-on-one, with the puck on the stick of a dangerous shooter… and the winning goal was scored. And then another goal was scored, and it was a 3-1 final.
Much like that game, the Leafs out-played the Kings. Sure, the Kings were on the second game of a back-to-back, but they're one of the best puck possession clubs in the NHL, and the Leafs absolutely took it to them, and could not beat that friggin' undrafted goalie at the other end. At least it wasn't Ben Scrivens, because, oh boy, how bad would that have looked?
December 11 2013 12:25PM
Before every game, I get into writing about something other than the obvious storyline pertaining to the other team. The obvious thing going into tonight is the goaltenders. Jonathan Bernier will get to face his old team while Ben Scrivens looks to be sitting on the bench. Both have been exceptional since the trade in the summer.
But I don't want to write about the goaltenders, nor do I want to concentrate on the 6-0 drubbing the Los Angeles Kings laid on the Montreal Canadiens (thank you!) a night ago on national television. I want to focus on Justin Williams, because he is a player so rarely talked about in the mainstream press despite possibly being the best two-way winger in the world right now. He won't get Team Canada consideration because he's not flashy, but his teams are embarrassingly better with Williams on the ice than off the ice.
After the jump I'll look at the key statistics between the two teams, then completely ignore those, and focus on Justin Williams.