What Game Score says about the Leafs at the World Cup

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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

The round robin of the World Cup is over and the playoff stage is about to kick off. What does that mean for the Leafs? Well, it’s the playoffs so it means they don’t get to play anymore. A little joke, but it’s actually true as Nikita Zaitsev is the last Leaf standing. Perhaps he hasn’t learned that part of Leafs culture yet.

That makes now the perfect time for some quick analysis of how the Leafs fared during the very short tournament. Many readers were up in arms when site overlord Jeff Veillette did something similar after the pre-tournament games which I thought was a little unfair since it wasn’t meant to be a predictive exercise, just a descriptive one. 

This one will be much the same, with all the caveats that small sample size randomness brings to the table. To reiterate, this is just a quick analysis of how each player performed, and not how they will perform as a Leaf.

Jeff’s analysis looked at each player’s shot attempt differentials as well as their relative values. This post will go in a different direction, using my own stat called Game Score which I’ve written about previously here. Game Score basically weighs all the key box score stats by how often they contribute to goals and turns it into a single number to determine single game productivity.

Here’s how the seven Leafs at the tournament performed.

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Auston Matthews: The shining shimmering star and the beacon of hope for Leafs Nation was a star at the tournament, but you probably didn’t need a fancy algorithm to tell you that. Matthews had the second-highest Game Score on #TeamMillennial (behind Colton Baerayko) and the ninth highest in the entire tournament. He was extremely impressive in his three games and it’s a shame we won’t see more of him on a line with Connor McDavid. The line was one of the best performing lines there in terms of pure shot differential. Matthews was point-per-game and hit double digits in shots on goal, what more can you ask from the kid.

Morgan Rielly: Rielly was another shining star on the kids team, and was a focal point for their defence. He was the number one d-man once Aaron Ekblad went down and thrived in his role. He ate big minutes, contributed on the score sheet and was a positive influence at both ends of the ice. Here’s hoping he continues playing at that level for the Leafs because he was a force for Team North America.

Milan Michalek: The man that many were hoping would be bought out and some forgot even existed was actually one of the better Czech players. He had the same score line as Matthews, but did it on fewer shots and wasn’t as effective in the possession game. Well, no one was on that team (the highest mark was -4), putting Michalek closer to average relative to his mates. He had a good tournament and it’ll be interesting to see him as a depth option this season.

James van Riemsdyk: It was a disappointing tournament for everyone of Team USA and van Riemsdyk was neither the most of least disappointing of them all. He was merely just there. He was so “just there” that I don’t really recall his name ever being mentioned by anyone. He sort of just drifted through this tournament unnoticed by anyone, which is strange considering his high profile in Toronto and the high profile of his country. Which begs the questions, was he even there at all? Did he even play? Knowing John Tortorella’s quirky deployment tactics, I’m not so sure he did. He apparently had an assist once, but I don’t remember it, and he was on for four goals against at 5-on-5, but I don’t remember that either. Is James van Riemsdyk a ghost? The answer is maybe.

Leo Komarov: Uncle Leo is the fifth best Leaf, but also the fifth best Finn which tells you a lot about Finland. Unlike the Czechs, there were actually some players who weren’t in the negatives for Corsi. They were Valtteri Filppula and Jyrki Jokipakka (I spelled those right on the first try, no looking FYI, which is more impressive than anything Finland did at this tournament) with a Corsi differential of zero. Yes, zero (0). This team was not good, but Komarov wasn’t to blame. He did a fine job chipping in an assist and a couple shots per game and being one of the few non-disasters possession wise. Good job, Leo.

Nikita Zaitsev: The new “kid” on the block is the only Leaf left, but he’s had a rather forgettable tournament. His ice-time has gone down in three straight games and he’s been one of the few Russians who have been a black hole for shot attempts (along with Artem Anisimov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ivan Telegin and Dmitry Orlov… maybe these guys are always on together, in which case Russia’s coach should maybe stop doing that). Zaitsev has one shot for this entire tournament, the lowest total on Team Russia, although he did lead the team in blocks. Jeff promised us all that Zaitsev was good so this performance better not be a sign of things to come.

Roman Polak: In what is perhaps the least surprising thing of this tournament, Polak was not good. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was bad. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was very bad. Actually, thats’ underselling it, he was extremely bad. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was terrible. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was on another level of terrible that I was frankly unaware existed. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was horrific in the same way that most horror movies are also horrific, just scary bad, but also still frightening to watch if you have a rooting interest for the characters involved. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was an actual train-wreck. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was a perfect analogy for ice hockey’s version of the Titanic. Actually, that’s underselling it, he was worse than the Raycroft for Rask trade. Okay on second thought, that last one went a bit too far. The point is that Polak did not play well. He had the worst Game Score at the tournament thanks to the worst Corsi differential there at -36. The next worst player was a three-way tie at -24. The difference between Polak and the next worst Corsi performance is the same as that guy and the guy 34 players below him. That bad. Polak was also a -4 in 5-on-5 goal differential, also last, but this time, he had company as it was a five-way tie with four players on Team USA. But hey, at least he got an assist and blocked six shots. It is honestly impressive how bad Polak was, I didn’t think it could be done, but it was done, and it was done by a member of the 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Geez, tell us how you really feel…”

I feel very strongly that Roman Polak is not good. Thank you.

  • Cali...Leaf

    i would say you have never played the game. I would take Roman ( as would Babcock) on my team anytime. His team sucked he was the major component on their D, of course he is going to look bad numbers wise. He is up against the best players, on every team, every night.
    The guy is a beast, a physical force on D. …. WE HAVE ZERO of those in the blue and white. He will jump into the rush every once in a while and will give you a 100% effort 100% of the time. Will you put on some skates and stand in front of the net with him ?…… I thought not

  • LukeDaDrifter

    As you are slagging off Polak I feel justified in saying, in other news The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective discover that the sky is blue.

    As bad as you say Polak was, he did win one game with Czech Republic. That is more than you can say about all the highly rated defencemen on USA and Finland.

  • Harte of a Lion

    Another Polak hater. Polak’s numbers are a reflection on how bad the entire Czec team was. When he ends up as your one of your teams top defenceman, your team is in big sh|t. When he plays protected minutes, he can be a passable 5/6/7 defenceman.
    The reason he is back is to set the example for the kids on how to train, how to eat, how to be a pro. The last thing the Leafs need is for the young players to go off the rail and end up like a young Richards or Carter. Too much money, too much partying, not enough common sense.

  • The China Wall

    Was that paragraph about Polak supposed to be funny? If it was, it waaaaaaaay missed the mark. There was waaaaaaay to much piling on with waaaaaaay too many unnecessary comments about how bad the author thought Polak was.

    I have my own proprietary stat (Unnecessay Piling On or UPO) and I give the author a -9 on the UPO scale – which is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay bad.

  • Randy Fraser

    You might have spelled Filppula and Jokipakka right on your first attempt, but you missed badly on Parayko.
    I understand it, Polak is not an analytics darling. Babcock seems to like him though and I’d take that over your analytics everytime.

  • Stan Smith

    Lets see, I like JVR and I don’t like Polak. They were both -4 in score differential, but I’m going to do my darndest to not say anything bad about JVR and I’m going to roast Polak.

    But you know what? It means absolutely nothing to JVR or Polak. They both know what their jobs are. They know how they played. They will still get up the next day and lace up their skates.