Leafs postgame – Leafs outshot; win. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Any other team, and we might suggest that the winner of the Tampa Bay and Toronto game taking place on Tuesday night was lucky—that the winning team benefit from four goal posts and a memorable goaltending performance from their starting goalie. But this is the Toronto Maple Leafs were talking about, and they’ve managed to pull games out like this since the dawn of 2013.

And it was a good thing, too, that the Leafs were able to capitalize on a late third period chance and eke out the 3-2 victory. The out-of-town scoreboard was not friendly to the Leafs on the night, with several teams behind them in the standings pulling out victories, but unable to gain any ground on the Leafs, who somehow find themselves closer to second place in the division than they do ninth place in the Conference.

I don’t understand it, but it’s sports. If you want fairness, or expected outcomes, go watch chess or pro wrestling. Recap below.

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First thing I’ll mention is the shot clock:

If you keep asking me, no, I do not believe that the Maple Leafs are so well-coached or well-positioned that they’re dramatically affecting the quality of those shots against. I didn’t count the scoring chance numbers for this game, but our friends over at Blue and White Disease have been doing it for most of the year, and generally when I’ve had a chance to look, the Leafs are behind more often in scoring chances than ahead.

But the goaltending has been outstanding, and Jonathan Bernier held the Maple Leafs in a scoreless first period, stopping two excellent shorthanded chances from Ondrej Palat. Palat may have been the best player on the ice in the first period, but Bernier came up big on a couple of chances. There was another excellent save made off of J.T. Brown, with Bernier getting some help from the goal post shifting over:

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Toronto was particularly poor on the powerplay in the first period, which I didn’t think was a prudent way to go about things. The way things go in the NHL, if you get three consecutive powerplays, just wait for the opposition to get the next two or three calls their way (they did). I assumed going in that the bulk of the offence would come from strong powerplays against weak penalty killing units, but that wasn’t necessarily the case, but a missed opportunity in the first.

However, Toronto’s offence came alive in the second, thanks to our young friend Nazem Kadri. At one point, the Leafs were out-shot 9-3 in the second period, with two of their shots being goals from Kadri. The first re-directed in off a defenceman, but the second was a little prettier, with Kadri making Victor Hedman look… well… let’s just say an usher was reported to recover Hedman’s jock in the third row of the upper deck midway through the period:

Worth noting: that Kadri goal came after a won defensive zone faceoff. Kadri was 7-of-7 on draws in the defensive zone on the night. 

Tampa Bay caught up and tied the game 2-2, first on a Morgan Rielly turnover at the conclusion of a Toronto penalty kill, and again on a series of missed clearing attempts from Carl Gunnarsson, Kadri, and Rielly, leading to a pile up of bodies in front of Jonathan Bernier and an easy tap-in for Mark Barbeiro, who has hockey’s most glorious hair right now.

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Third period, the shots were 13-10 for the Lightning, but it could have been a lot more. It seemed like the teams were exchanging missed opportunities and a failure to put pucks on net from good areas. Tyler Bozak finally dislodged the puck from Radko Gudas’ beard, and Phil Kessel had the patience to wait for James van Riemsdyk. The American Olympian made no mistake on the finish, although referee Dean Morton wanted to take a second look:

Probably just to confirm that “yes, that is Tyler Bozak starting a play in the offensive zone”.

Play of the game came moments later, with Jonathan Bernier robbing Martin St. Louis point blank. No video yet, but trust me, it was excellent.


Tampa Bay hit four posts in the second period (the NHL only credits them for three, but in that first highlight I linked, they credited J.T. Brown with a slap shot taken from 175 feet away, so they aren’t exactly the most reliable statisticians) and Bernier made some key stops. Ben Bishop wasn’t able to get into a rhythm early in the second period, so those tough saves came a little bit tougher when challenged by Kadri on two difficult shots.

But perhaps it’s also thanks to Randy Carlyle’s deal with the devil early in 2013. Toronto win a disproportionate number of games like this, and have a much better record in one goal games than they do in games decided by two goals or more. Theoretically, this is unsustainable, but they’ve been doing this for 100 games now to the point where there’s no more theory involved. What we’re seeing out of Toronto is something annoying for statistically-inclined people like myself, for one, but also dreadfully fun for people like myself who enjoy chaos and disorder.

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Could go with Bernier here, but check out Nazem Kadri’s stat line: two goals on six shots, 10-6 on faceoffs, eight attempted shots in a little over 18 minutes of ice-time. The only thing he didn’t manage to do was draw a penalty. 


Here’s the Fenwick graph, counting up team unblocked shot totals over the course of the game. None too surprising here. Tampa got a good lead early and then pulled away:

Considering how hot the Bolts top line has been, and how many shots Tampa got in this game, I think it’s worth giving credit to the way Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson handled the trio of Tyler Johnson, Martin St. Louis and Ondrej Palat. Palat tore it up in the first period, but settled down for the final 40 and Martin St. Louis was pretty quiet until the end. The Leafs were even, 9-9 in shots, with Phaneuf on the ice during the game. That’s despite Phaneuf starting 11 shifts in the defensive zone (out of 17 5-on-5 defensive zone shifts for the Leafs total) and just four in the offensive zone.

The TSN team gave Tim Gleason a nod of approval for his game but I wasn’t that big of a fan in all honesty. Him and Cody Franson combined for five blocked shots in the game, which is a positive to some people, but that led all Leafs defensive pairings (3-36 had three and 44-51 had none) and they spent more time having to defend despite some pretty easy zone starts and the matchup against the Bolts’ second line.

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Leafs Corsi leader on the night was Troy Bodie, on the ice for 10 attempts for and 5 against in his 7.6 minutes of ice-time. Please stay, prototypical fourth liner. We’re sorry about the summer, where we implied you only got a job with the team because of nepotism.

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  • Bertly83

    Back on Jan 10 after the loss of the leafs to Washington I wrote

    “Orr’s fight is the turning point of the season and the creation of the leaf identity.”

    when everyone is suggesting the leafs tank, trade away everyone and fire Carlyle. Not a bad in game call if you ask me. JVR post game interview convinced me this team was getting to rumble.


  • Bertly83

    Good win for the Leafs, but boy does that Lightning team look good. I don’t get to see them enough but guys like Hedman, Johnson, Kucherov, palat etc. Seem legit.
    Also nice to see the Leafs continuing to dump all over the predictions of the more statistically inclined. They just have a lot of highly skilled forwards who don’t require a load of shot attempts to make things happen, which is effective and a helluva a lot more fun to watch than teams like the Kings who just funnel everything to the net and sit back defensively. Bernier had a good game which is a nice change from the mediocre to bad ‘tending the Leafs have been getting lately.

  • Bertly83

    47% Corsi in 5v5 situations doesn’t exactly scream “undeserved, lucky win” like you’re trying to imply. That’s close enough to 50% where we can pretty much call it a wash.

    Tampa hit 4 posts, and Leafs had multiple scoring chances broken up (St Louis just barely saving that goal with his stick while on the ice, Morgan Rielly alone in front of the net in the first period with Raymond right behind him, etc).

    It was a close game, that could have gone either way. Using your typical “Leafs had another unsustainable win” angle is just lazy journalism.

    • Bertly83

      Amen. It’s pretty obvious now that something more is going on than just luck. Corsi explains a small portion of the game, and probably even smaller for a team like the Leafs. People are slowly starting to come around but many still want to hang onto the shot attempt holy grail.

  • Bertly83

    I’m just learning about advanced stats, but I came across one stat that is wildly under appreciated. Phil Kessel continuing to set new career highs in hits this year. He is already at 19 in just 55 games. I’m not surprised this is also shaping up to be his best offensive year as the two go hand in hand.

    Kessel is gritty, hits, will drop the gloves and even was suspended. He is becoming a complete player and package with both skill and grit intangibles.

  • Bertly83

    Bozak went 54% in 5v5 CF% while facing St. Louis’ line for the bulk of his minutes. Pretty good.

    He’s a positive Corsi Rel this season while facing top lines and pairings, and producing well too (although that is bound to regress blah blah blah).

    Still, as someone who’s been his critic for a while I’m happy with him this year. The only thing I don’t like about him is his shot, really, but that ain’t changing anytime soon.

    Obviously he could be upgraded upon, and should be, but he isn’t the replacement level junk some people like to think he is

  • Cam Thornton

    I like how after Kadri’s 2nd goal, the announcer (I’m not sure of his name), said that it was his “second career 2 goal game, still looking for his first hat trick.” Pretty positive he had one against the Islanders last year

    • Daigotsu

      I believe that Kadri has had 2 hat tricks in his NHL career but none at home. Really good game last night. The leafs played a typical Leaf game. At times sloppy in their own end but an excellent quick strike and counter strike team that does not so much with offensive zone possession time. They also allow the other team to shoot from the outside in their own zone and do not seem to concerned about that until it gets into the box area in front of the net. That was some quick (sic) move around Heddman by Kadri. You gotta love those hands.

  • STAN

    Numbers schmumbers.

    This was a classic display of timely, deadly shooting overcoming a totally dysfunctional Leafs team that INSISTS on giving the puck away in all zones, making incomplete passes galore, collapsing in their own zone content to watch opponents move the puck around at ease and with no one challenging, and generally looking confused, like they’ve never played with the other guys in the room before.

    Only Kadri looked like a decent NHL pro.

    Only goalposts saved the Leafs from a 6-3 drubbing.

    In my my mind, very little positive from this game.

    • Daigotsu

      Only goalposts saved the Leafs? I don’t think so maybe tampa should learn how to hit the puck into the back of the net instead of hitting the posts next game.

      • STAN

        I can just imagine a Carlyle coaches session heading into their next game against Tampa Bay.

        “Well boys we know they’ll get about 40 shots on net because our system is designed that way, based on Phaneuf’s dynamic leadership and skill-set.

        The Lightning will also get 65-70 shots toward the net, again based on the system I’ve developed and had fully-implemented in Anaheim before I was sacked. But, again based on my system, we can count on 7 to 10 percent of their shots hitting posts. Maybe 3 or 4 per game.

        If we can counter with at least 3 goals, we have a good chance of winning. And remember, if you spot any of our guys holding onto the puck and looking around for a play, remind them that the system requires they just get it out of our zone at all costs. That’s the priority. Dump it out. We want Tampa to have the puck so we can constantly defend. We’ll jump on any flukey plays and make them pay.”

        Good luck.