After every month of hockey, it’s good practice to take a look back and assess what happens. That’s my goal here with these posts analyzing the Leafs Game Score for each player for every month. You can find October’s here. (Apologies for the lateness here, Corsica didn’t update right away after the month ended and then the weekend hit which is generally a content graveyard so here we are).
For those unfamiliar with Game Score, it’s a single number stat meant to measure single game productivity and player value that I developed over the summer. It basically combines the most important box-score stats and weights them by their relevance to goals. It’s not perfect and there’s much that is unaccounted for, but it does pretty well for something that is relatively simple to compute and comprehend.
The sample is still incredibly small, but I figure taking a look at the team on a monthly basis could provide some insight into how the team is doing. So without further ado, here’s how the Leafs November looked through the eyes of Game Score and some thoughts on it.
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1. October’s Least Valuable Player is November’s Most Valuable Player. Such is the nature of goaltending, but Frederik Andersen was lights out this month and is playing even better than many of us really expected. He posted a .931 save percentage for the month and his season total is now up to .913, just a shade under Henrik Lundqvist. On many nights in November, he was the reason the Leafs won.
2. Meanwhile, the best player from October by Game Score, William Nylander, struggled mightily in November, averaging just 0.36 per game. Part of that was an inability to get on the scoreboard while another part was simply regressing from a crazy high October. Either way, it put him in Mike Babcock’s doghouse recently. I’m not too worried about Nylander and I’m sure he’ll play some great hockey going forward.
3. Nazem Kadri is having a great season for the team and he’s the engine propelling them forward. Matthews was slightly higher by Game Score, Bozak a little lower, but it’s impossible to ignore the difference in teammate quality. Bozak’s got the best wingers on the team, Matthews has Nylander, and Kadri’s got the scraps. All that while being put in a hugely defensive role. He’s been outstanding this season.
4. What’s interesting about Kadri this season is that he’s simply not getting the calls he used to and has seen his penalty differential take a huge drop. He had a team worst -7 which is very unlike him. Perhaps he’s getting a bad reputation so refs look the other way, perhaps it’s his usage that makes him take more penalties. Either way, one of his biggest strengths is now one of his biggest flaws.
5. James van Riemsdyk’s Game Score in October: 0.82. James van Riemsdyk’s Game Score in November: 0.82. There’s some more consistency for you. He’s the only Leaf represented in the top three in both months this season, and it’s clear how much his absence was felt last season.
6. I can’t help but notice that pretty much everyone on the Leafs roster has a negative Corsi differential for the month. The only positives: Matthews, Gardiner, Nylander. No surprises there. It’s not a good sign for the rest of the team, but it’s also a product of having the lead a lot which they did this month. Polak’s -67 for the month is a fitting number for this team. He actually had the 11th worst Game Score of anyone this month, 7th among skaters.
7. I’m not sure what it takes to get Roman Polak a seat above the ice, but it’s apparently not multiple games in a row of awful play. He had two okay games for the month, while the rest were either bad or dreadful. At one point he had two games below -0.15 in a row, a healthy scratch, four more games below, another healthy scratch, and then another game below. Basically seven trash games in a row sandwiched by two bad ones. Meanwhile Frank Corrado got into just one game this month. He was awful in it, sure, but the amount of leash on one guy over the other doesn’t make much sense.
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8. Auston Matthews had that big overblown scoring drought this month, but he still ended up fourth on the team this month anyway, and was held to just two “bad” games. Leading up to the end of his drought, he had nine straight games of fine, good, or great games. That’s why no one was never really worried about him not scoring – he was playing great regardless. It’s early in his career, but Matthews is looking like the type of player who rarely has an off night. Remarkably consistent.
9. That big orange strip at game four of the month? A 7-0 loss to Los Angeles. When every single player is listed as awful it’s probably a good sign that things are working. Same thing goes for game eight, a 6-1 win over Florida where everyone (except three interesting names) looked good.
10. Connor Carrick was one of the revelations for the team in October, but he’s struggled lately bringing his overall October down. He had some good games here and there, but I wonder how much of that is playing with Jake Gardiner as opposed to his own talents. Really, the Leafs D after Rielly, Gardiner, and Zaitsev have all struggled, and the line is blurred on the last name there. Bottom line this team needs better d-men.