The Leafs’ Statistical Progression In November, As A Team

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

November is officially behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. Over the course of those 30 days, the team went 8-5-1 and gave everybody a heck of a lot to be excited about, even if that 7-0 loss to the Kings made life feel temporarily pointless. With December’s games soon to be underway and the Leafs sitting a point out of a Wildcard spot, I figured it would be interesting to compare where the Leafs stand now to where they did before. We’ll be breaking this up into two posts, with this one covering just the team’s statistics. Let’s dive in!

Shot Metrics

Here are Toronto’s shot and goal-based numbers (with score adjustment) from October:

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Stat Corsi Fenwick Shots xGoals Chances Goals
For/60 68.32 (1st) 49.13 (1st) 34.59 (1st) 3.08 (1st) 11.45 (2nd) 2.75 (7th)
Against/60 58.28 (23rd) 43.52 (22nd) 30.46 (18th) 2.63 (21st) 8.99 (21st) 3.38 (29th)
Percentage 58.96 (4th) 53.03 (7th) 53.17 (5th) 53.96 (6th) 56.01 (7th) 44.93 (24th)

Conversely, here are November’s:

Stat Corsi Fenwick Shots xGoals Chances Goals
For/60 58.72 (11th) 44.78 (4th) 31.96 (7th) 3.45 (1st) 13.17 (1st) 2.65 (7th)
Against/60 63.18 (29th) 48.3 (29th) 34.74 (29th) 2.93 (29th) 10.46 (29th) 3.03 (28th)
Percentage 48.17 (21st) 48.11 (22nd) 47.92 (22nd) 54.11 (4th) 55.73 (5th) 46.66 (18th)

If your eyes immediately head to attempts (Corsi), it looks a little scary. Toronto, clearly, has lost its’s offensive ways and with the defence still being bad (read: even worse) at giving up opportunities, the team is clearly boned, right?

Well, not exactly. As you can see, they’re still near the top of unblocked shot attempt generation and actual shots, and they stepped up even further in generating scoring chances (close range shots, rush shots, rebounded shots), which effectively evened out the goals. I’m not a huge fan of shot quality debates, mostly because the bulk of them boil down to “my eyes see what your data can’t”, but there might be something to the idea that the Leafs moved in an already tight game a bit closer.

Out of curiosity, I decided to break down what types of shots the team was taking and facing in that stretch. So let’s break them the attempts into shots that hit the net, are blocked and miss the net. We’ll also look at how many attempts become scoring chances, and become Expected Goals (again looking to our boy Manny).

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Here’s October:

Stat On Goal Blocked Missed Chance Expected
For Breakdown 50.63% 28.09% 21.28% 16.76% 4.51%
Against Breakdown 52.26% 25.33% 22.41% 15.42% 4.51%

Here’s November:

Stat On Goal Blocked Missed Chance Expected
For Breakdown 54.43% 23.74% 21.83% 22.43% 5.88%
Against Breakdown 54.99% 23.55% 21.46% 16.55% 4.64%

That’s where you see it. More of Toronto’s attempts are ending up on goal, mostly because they’re making it through traffic and allowing them to build up opportunities in close, where players like Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk, and even slightly less skilled forwards like Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, and Zach Hyman make their livings.

Unfortunately, Toronto is also giving up slightly higher quality shots compared to last month, but the offensive difference is bigger and net positives are most important.

Zone Starts / Finishes

For those who don’t buy into the whole “shots are a proxy for possession” stuff… well, you won’t buy much into zone starts and finishes either, but we may as well compare the two months anyway.

Month OZS DZS% NZS% OZF% DZF% NZF% Start Ratio Finish Ratio Difference
October 33.1 31.49 35.4 36.76 35.45 27.79 51.25 50.91 -0.34
November 29.57 32.89 37.54 33.55 37.42 29.03 47.34 47.27 -0.07

The percentages didn’t particularly work to their favour this month. They started and finished less frequently in the offensive zone, and started/finished more frequently in the defensive zone as well. However, most of the offensive drop went into Neutral Zone time, and while they were starting from worse spots, there wasn’t as negative of a gap between where they started and where they finished.

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Special Teams

Month 5v4 CF60 5v4 CF% 5v4 xGF60 4v5 CA60 4v5 CF% 4v5 xGA60
October 83.33 (19th) 92.59 (9th) 6.49 (12th) 98.40 (22nd) 9.68 (20th) 5.68 (10th)
November 86.57 (16th) 81.74 (29th) 5.43 (21st) 102.26 (26th) 11.59 (18th) 7.04 (24th)

For all the talk of improving special teams this month, there isn’t really a lot to brag about. They’re taking more shots when on the powerplay, but they’re coming from out wide and not as many are heading to the net. That might also explain the drop in percentages, given that they’re allowing more shots. If the numbers lineup with the eye-test observation of the team giving up the puck at the line more often this month, that implies that the point has been more involved.

On the penalty kill, I’m not sure how much the Hunlak and Smiths how is doing. Teams are getting in closer and taking more shots.

Other Stats

I won’t pepper you with every table I possibly can, but there are other things that can be quickly touched on. Toronto’s giveaway to takeaway ratio remains at about even throughout the season, as does the frequency for shots for/against to come off the rush. They gave up more rebounds, which I presume is a combination of Andersen bouncing more shots away and the stay at home defencemen getting distracted with battles in front of the net, which we saw on more than a few occasions. Toronto’s shooting percentage at even strength shot up from 8% to 10.3%; combine that with a spike from 0.889 out of their goaltenders to 0.920 and you’ve got a PDO pendulum swing for the ages; from 969 to 1023.

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The Leafs still have a lot of growing to do. They’re a young team with a lot of new pieces, and they’re definitely still getting a feel for each other. The net difference between this month and last month seems to be help from Frederik Andersen, though the fact that shots are starting to come from in closer is definitely worth keeping in mind in regards to their offensive generation. Shot suppression and special teams are the things worth focusing on month heading towards the new year.

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  • Stan Smith

    Two questions. In the Leafs giving up more rebounds, are you talking about a rebound that ends up being another shot on net, or just rebounds in general?

    Second you state “the stay at home defencemen getting distracted with battles in front of the net, which we saw on more than a few occasions.” Have you played defence? You have it backwards. Dmen tying up and boxing out forwards in front of the net are what they are supposed to do. It is when you get dmen getting “distracted” by puck watching, and chasing, that you start giving up scoring chances and goals.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    The Leafs were a much improved team in November. If the stats don’t show that, then there is something seriously wrong with the stats you are using..For statistics to have any value whatsoever, they must reflect the reality of the game. Only when they do, can they be used to find ways to improve the end results.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        Using shots on goal while it has some logic, only gives a general look at what is really happening. As an example 10 shots taken by Alex Ovechkin will have a very different value than 10 shots taken by Ben Smith. Until that information is included it the equation, you will always have unexplained anomalies. Another example would be the Canadiens last year. They continued to out shoot their opponents in most every game but continued to lose. Unfortunately for them the problem was they were not able to shoot accurately enough to win. They feel they have addressed that problem this year. Shots for and against tell you something about the flow of the game, that’s all.

        The Leafs won 2 games in October and 8 games in November. Does that stat not count for anything? Using that stat does it appear to you the Leafs play is deteriorating? I think most people would say that is a huge improvement..

        I am not against statistics in general.
        Like I said, if stats can not show the reason for the improvement then what value are they? If you tell me doom and gloom is just around the corner and the Leafs are about to go on a major losing streak because the stats tell us so, I don’t believe it. I see no evidence of that occurring, even though I know every team hits a slump sometime in the season,