Five Leafs thoughts to begin the week – April 22nd

Scattered thoughts that I could expand on later this week… we talk Joffrey Lupul, more Corsi crap, James Reimer and the Vezina Trophy, a Leafs defenceman who belongs in the lineup, and Garret Sparks’ highlight from Sunday’s game.

No. 1 – Joffrey Lupul keeps going

The above image is a screen cap of Joffrey Lupul after he scored the clinching goal against Ottawa. It put Toronto up 4-1 and gave them a playoff berth.

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Lupul has 10 goals on the season, which doesn’t seem like a whole heck of a lot considering it’s April… but he’s only got to play 13 games. His season has been broken up by a lockout, a trip to Russia, a contract re-signing, a forearm break, a suspension and a concussion. I still don’t see him as a particularly good defensive player, but the Leafs are out-scoring their opponents 13-6 with Lupul on the ice this season 5-on-5. They are, however, being out-shot 76-84. (using data mined from Hockey Analysis)

It’s frightening how symbolic Lupul is of the Leafs’ season. He’s a perfect leader in that respect despite playing so little. An absurd shooting percentage (27% is a career-high, but again, 13 games) he’s scoring way more than his shot totals would suggest and it’s tough for me to come online and tell you all not to love him.

No. 2 – Improvement in shot statistics

This is quite ugly. I looked at forwards who played 200 minutes both this season and last, comparing Corsi percentages. A player’s Corsi percentage is the number of attempted shots (including blocks and misses) that the Leafs took when they were on the ice divided by the total for both teams. 50% would be considered “even”.

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  12CF 12CA 12C% 13CF 13CA 13C% Diff.
Frattin 17.362 18.294 48.69% 18.787 20.114 48.29% -0.40%
Bozak 19.033 21.012 47.53% 18.409 22.234 45.29% -2.23%
MacArthur 19.723 18.582 51.49% 18.861 19.586 49.06% -2.43%
Kessel 20.162 20.692 49.35% 19.493 22.382 46.55% -2.80%
Kadri 19.019 18.396 50.83% 17.957 19.545 47.88% -2.95%
Grabovski 21.006 18.115 53.69% 17.909 21.961 44.92% -8.78%
Kulemin 19.756 18.787 51.26% 15.731 22.487 41.16% -10.10%

Shot differentials are a proxy for puck-possession. No Leaf sees the puck more this season than they did last season. Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin, once stalwarts, have fallen completely off the radar this season in difficult minutes and limited ice-time.

On defence, you get more of the same:

  12CF 12CA 12C% 13CF 13CA 13C% Diff.
Liles 17.914 18.622 49.03% 16.830 20.025 45.67% -3.37%
Gunnarsson 17.796 18.528 48.99% 16.563 19.855 45.48% -3.51%
Franson 19.360 18.368 51.31% 17.505 20.778 45.73% -5.59%
Phaneuf 18.821 18.969 49.80% 16.653 22.788 42.22% -7.58%

It’s all pretty troubling. None of the ultra-tough minutes taken by the third line or the top defensive pairing has turned into more shots for any other Leaf. I know “PLAYOFFS!!!1” and all that, but…

No. 3 – Reimer for Vezina?

Check out the first bit of this clip:

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Paul MacLean has an easy explanation for why his team hasn’t cracked James Reimer yet this season. His team has enough trouble scoring goals: against 13 other Eastern Conference teams, they score on just 6.5% of shots at even strength. Reimer has stopped 106 of 111 pucks against the Senators this season, so the Sens are shooting just 4.5% against him.

That “Vezina and Hart” comment is funny. Great post from mc79hockey a couple of years ago that I remembered as soon as I heard it:

The electorate is small enough that a couple of general managers voting out of self interest could skew the voting.

I’ve got no idea whether the player contracts call for bonuses for winning the Vezina or not, as this seems like a rather obvious problem. It’s certainly a possibility though and, given that the CBA was put together without regard to a lot of big picture issues, it’s not all that surprising that something like this exists. The NHL should probably take the Vezina voting away from the GM’s because of this – they’re begging for trouble when they give general managers the power to affect the salary cap room of other teams.

Remember, it’s the NHL general managers, not the pro hockey writers, that select the Vezina winners. Reimer makes a pittance this year relative to his value to the Leafs. A Vezina nomination, and you’re looking at an extra $500k or so on his next deal.

Personally, though, if I had a Vezina vote I’d go with Sergey Bobrovsky, Henrik Lundqvist or maybe even Antti Niemi. All three have put up high even strength save percentages (totals can be found here) and have generally been workhoses. Reimer’s injury partway through the year could trip him up in that respect. He’s doing well in EV SV%, but ultimately there are a lot of starters who have put up even higher numbers than him. The Leafs’ PDO boost is coming from their shooting, not necessarily their goaltending.

Also, note how MacLean, a guy who could be a lock for coach of the year, discusses “blocked shots” and “missed shots” along with his team’s 50 shots as a proxy for puck-possession? Teams do things that might surprise a lot of commenters on this site…

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No. 4 – What about Kostka?

Note above that the Leafs don’t have the puck very much with Dion Phaneuf on the ice.

Here are his Corsi percentages with his major partners this season:

  Minutes Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi %
Holzer 229:17 17.62 26.43 0.400
Gunnarsson 185:53 15.92 22.49 0.414
Kostka 185:08 16.74 19.99 0.456

The gripe with Mike Kostka is that him and Phaneuf saw entirely too many minutes together. Kostka hasn’t been in the lineup since April 4, and I’m wondering why. It’s not like Kostka is Alex Pietrangelo back there, but I have an inkling he’s better than Ryan O’Byrne.

O’Byrne’s numbers haven’t been updated in some time it appears, but I could make a case for Kostka later in the week to rejoin the lineup. I think ideally my top six looks like so:

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Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Mike Kostka

No. 5 – Appreciated this

From the Marlies game on Sunday, this is a nice little hit laid by goaltender Garret Sparks on St. John’s Mathieu Tousignant:

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Sparks tweets “GET OFF ME, SON” which I’ll just pretend is an allusion to demetryjames86’s classic YouTube videos (NSFW – language). Related: I’ve noticed they’ve taken down the one with Marshawn Lynch and “the true meaning of determination”. Boo NFL.

Also, boo to the AHL. The Marlies played the Rochester Americans ten times this season, and now get to start up their playoff run against them. That’s at least 14 games this season against a rival that’s all too familiar. Jeffler should have some stuff on the Marlies popping up periodically during the run.

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Tyler Biggs’ first AHL goal is up here, at around :58 seconds in:


Bonus Thought No. 6

Sunday was the highest traffic day ever in The Leafs Nation history, beating out the day Brian Burke was fired. Thanks to all our readers, old and new, commenters and lurkers, who make this website pretty rewarding to keep going. I didn’t grow up a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and this is my first season writing about them. Lots of fun angles to take this season.

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  • I think you miss the possibility that Carlyle’s genius level coaching can and has often outwitted advanced statistics. For example,

    1. Carlyle’s crazy player usages shows how he often skates the hotter player (SH% wise) and then sits or reduces their TOI during their cooling off period. Lupul, Frattin etc. Carlyle is a smart coach and knows how to game the system and play the hot hand.

    2. The problem with shot differentials is that Carlyle and his coaching staff are looking at quality scoring chances. And sure Phaneuf gets outshot but HE is smart enough to know when to pinch and take a high quality shot when to stay back and take away a quality shot from the opposition

    3. Mclean is just trolling leaf fans here. He can’t really say the reason the Sens lost to the leafs was that the leafs are a better team and that he was clearly out coached and out-enforced by Carlyle’s usage of the goons.

    4. And not to take away from Reimer but .926 is about where he played in the marlies (a bit on the high side) but I don’t expect him to drop to 900 more like a 915 to 920 goalie. Reimer is part of the reason for the leafs success but his goaltending is sustainable though a bit high and Reimer may have Price like struggles at time as most goalies do.

    • Well, he didn’t “outwit” advanced analytics when his team that won a disproportionate number of close games in 2010-2011 crashed out in the first round to Nashville and then missed the playoffs the next season.

      Not everything is “stats” versus “not stats”. Actually, nothing is “stats” versus “not stats”. In fact, Carlyle has a guy count scoring chances for him.

  • Completely agree with your top 6 D pairings, Cam. Fraser especially, a guy who’s starting to see 20+ mins a night (24mins vs ott) I think is a real problem. Carlyle’s starting to rely on this guy more and more, and seeing him play he collapses way too much, ices the puck way too much (terrible 1st pass) and lets numerous shots be fired from the net, sometimes even screening Reimer. He’s fine for ~15mins vs 3rd/4th lines, but anything else they dance around him.