Game Preview: Maple Leafs v. Lightning







8-11-3, 19 points

13-8-3, 29 points

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PP %

15.2%, 21st

23.4%, 5th

PK %

73.1%, 29th

87.5%, 3rd

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Goals For



Goals Against



Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Tampa Bay Lightning. As has often been the case since the lockout, the Lightning are a horrible hockey team at the most basic level: Five-on-Five. During the game’s most commom state, the Lightning are among the bottom five teams. Their GF/GA ratio is 0.77. Compare that with a team everyone agrees is terrible, the Leafs, who stand at 0.89. Why are the Lightning doing so much better than the Leafs? Simple: Special Teams.

Someone on this site once remarked that Powerplay Success Means Nothing. He was rightly laughed off the site and…what’s that? *checks the site* crap. Well, his myopic view of special teams was corrected with some simple research that highlighted the importance of special teams. A good team will have a powerplay plus penalty kill mark of 100. The Lightning stand at 110.9 which is how they have managed to overcome their atrocious even strength play. The Leafs’ 88.3% is on its way to setting a post-lockout standard for special teams’ futility.

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Amongst this turmoil – not to mention five straight road losses by a combined score of 5-0 – the Leafs marked the second anniversary of his appointment as the Maple Leafs General Manager. James Mirtle took a look at some of the good from his tenure:


Even amid all of the losing, there have been a few positives. Burke’s biggest success to date has likely been overhauling the organization in goal, first by bringing in renowned goalie coach François Allaire and then in signing European free agents Jonas Gustavsson and Jussi Rynnas.

The franchise has also finally gone toward a youth movement, with just three players over 28. Burke has several young players such as Gustavsson and winger Nikolai Kulemin, on reasonable contracts beyond this season.

Signing Clarke MacArthur, the team’s leading scorer, for just $1.1-million (U.S.) in late August was also a savvy move.

Not bad! Of course, he also looked at the bad and the ugly. That part wasn’t as much fun to read. Mark Zwolinski examined Burke’s moves thus far as well as the result of his third season in his last two GM gigs. Not surprisingly, they were much better than what his third season in Toronto is on track to produce. The best Michael Traikos could do was to call the Leafs a work in progress which is kind of like saying that the TSA is still working out the kinks in their new passenger screening process.

As SkinnyFish noted today, looking at the numbers it is hard to say that Brian Burke has the Leafs on the right path. He certainly still has the patience of MLSE and the benefit of the doubt from a lot of fans (including this one to a certain extent) but the decisions he makes from today until the end of the season will go a long way towards determining his legacy in Toronto. Tonight’s game, as part of three straight at home, has been given a lot of importance towards determining the fate of Ron Wilson. The Leafs are already in a deep hole in terms of the playoffs. The longer Burke waits to act the closer the Leafs come to cementing another lottery pick.

On the bright side, the Leafs get another crack at one of five goalies that have shut them out this year. Hopefully this time Dan Ellis will have 100 problems.

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