Leafs' Playoff Talk As Much About Other Teams As Themselves

Greg Brady
November 30 2016 09:59AM

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SPORTS

Well, winning a second game on the road was a start, yes, and whether we want to consider it a "statement" win or not over a team that hasn't made the playoffs in coming up to 11 years or not, points are points -- on the second-last evening of November or the first night of April.

Toronto was an ugly 1-5-4 away from the Air Canada Centre (where the bounces, the execution, and the response to their play have been quite enthusiastic and friendly).  After a couple seasons where it wasn't terribly fun to go to see the Maple Leafs play live (combine the hit to your bank account for tickets and concessions AND the listless apathy of fans and players alike, at times), but things are maybe more rapidly changing than anyone could have foreseen, even with the knowledge Auston Matthews would begin his NHL career here.

So last night's 4-2 win over Edmonton, their first road triumph since November 3rd in Buffalo (against a Sabres team without Jack Eichel and Zach Bogosian), can certainly lead to a successful Western Canadian road swing where the results have been quite barren and ugly in many recent previous years -- the Canucks, for example, are 7-1 in their past 8 home games against the Leafs and have outscored Toronto 33-15 in those contests.

But what I said in the early fall about the Maple Leafs is something I still believe.  This will be a much more threatening team to steal points from more talented and experienced teams in February and March than it will be able to do in November and December, and I think that is still to bear itself out that way.

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Peter Holland, Ben Smith, Tyler Bozak, and the Leafs' Penalty Kill

Ryan Hobart
November 30 2016 09:32AM

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

An announcement came out recently that the Leafs were going to try to trade Peter Holland due to his concerns over ice time and future with the organization. Jeff Veillette covered the announcement here, so I won't double up on that.

A common first reaction to this move was that it was terrible and that the Leafs were continuing to make mistakes involving the selection of players for their 4th line. But after digging into the data, it seems that's not the case. The information below should show why that is, and discuss a good plan would be going forward if the Leafs are unable to trade Peter Holland.

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How the Leafs won the Edmonton Matchup War before the opening faceoff

Jeff Veillette
November 30 2016 02:50AM

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SPORTS

In case you missed it last night, the Leafs beat the Edmonton Oilers again. It was a fun time; Auston Matthews scored on the powerplay, everybody got mad at Nazem Kadri a bunch of times, and boy, oh boy, did we ever hear about the "matchup" angle again and again and again. At least it wasn't like the 2013 playoff round against the Bruins, though, where Randy Carlyle was given credit for waiting a bit to pick his line whether it worked or not simply because it was convenient; in this case, Kadri really did give Connor McDavid a run for his money a few weeks prior.

You have a $4.5 million, 26-year-old player, once considered defensively irresponsible, neutralizing a player who might become the league's best since Mario Lemieux. It was a huge deal. So much so that it became the talk of both morning skates.

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Leafs' young stars are creating shots at star-like rates

November 30 2016 02:49AM

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SPORTS

Auston Matthews has gotten off to a pretty fast start to his NHL career.  His 9 goals have him tied for the team lead on the Leafs with Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk, while his 17 points are just one off the team lead.  Even more impressive is his shot volume.  Matthews has taken 77 shots through 21 games, which is the 6th most in the entire league.  And Matthews is doing it in a smaller number of minutes than other top players, as he's the only one in the top 15 in shots who's getting fewer than 18 minutes a night.

This got me wondering how Matthews compares to some of the other best young players in recent years.  So I grabbed a list of the top shooters from the past decade who were 20 years old or younger.

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Leafs Postgame: Nazem's Town

Jeff Veillette
November 29 2016 11:00PM

Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SPORTS

"I am the kid with the motor mouth, I am the one you should worry about". Drake said it, Nazem Kadri practices it, and the City of Edmonton must be endlessly frustrated about it. The Toronto Maple Leafs flew high once again against Connor McDavid and pals, taking tonight's game against the Oilers by a 4-2 result.

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