Everything Is Fine and the Leafs Are Still Good

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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SPORTS

I was going to write one of our typical post-game recaps tonight. You know, the ones that describe the goals you’re about to watch on Youtube, that gives a Blue Warrior pat on the back to someone who either has a couple of snipes, has a good Corsi, or blocks a shot with their face (the Polak nights), and wrap up with telling you when the next game is.

If you watched tonight’s game before you came here, you’re probably already dreading the next game (Thursday at 9 PM against St. Louis), and I don’t blame you. Because tonight was bad. Probably the team’s worst game in months.

But that’s probably fine.

For those of you who didn’t watch the game, I’d legitimately advise you to not watch the highlights, or scroll back to your PVR. It’s a waste of time; if you want to see Mitch Marner do good things, watch this GIF and this GIF and skip the rest of the night. The Leafs spent so much of the night chasing the Stars, yet not keeping up. They spent it getting danced in key moments and making a bunch of questionable passes. Their heads looked like they were still in All-Star Weekend.

Skip the HockeyStats summary page too. You’ll see that the Leafs out-Corsi’d the Stars 81 to 47, and you’ll see that Leo Komarov was their only sub-50% possession player, and you’ll probably think that they ruled tonight. That’s until you realize that they were trailing for 57 minutes, trailing by multiple goals for 55 minutes, and trailed by at least three goals for 47 minutes. That’s until you realize that Dallas stopped celebrating goals by the end of the first period and that the Leafs were just chucking anything they could towards the net at times to try to regain momentum.

It was a bad showing. I’m sure that the coaching staff will be happy to have material to wake up the team with in the morning, but it was an awful game. Worse than the loss to the Rangers a couple of weeks ago. Probably up there with the Kings and Lightning Blowouts of late October/Early November. The only saving grace is that the Senators lost too and that the Bruins have played about a thousand extra games. Now that we have that out of the way.

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs are still 12th in the NHL in standings points percentage/pace. Nothing has changed with this loss, other than the specific number.
  • This game tonight was Toronto’s second consecutive regulation loss. This is the first time they’ve lost consecutive games in regulation since November 22nd, and just the third time this entire season.
  • This is just Toronto’s ninth multi-goal loss this season. they’ve won by multiple goals fifteen times.
  • Toronto still has points in 16 of their last 21 games. Moreover, they’re 11-4-2 in their past 17. 
  • The Leafs will still be in the top half of the league in most important metrics going into tomorrow. They’ve been Top Half and rising in Score-Adjusted Corsi, Fenwick, Shots, Goals, Expected goals, Scoring Chances, and Actual Goals for weeks now. These are the metrics that teams that do well in the long run excel in. They’ve seen more dominant days, but the big picture trends upward.
Or, if you’re not too keen on the stats verbiage, this is a young, talented team that has been well ahead or in the mix in almost all of their games this year. They seem to be getting better with every game they play, and hiccups will happen.

Hiccups happen, even for the greatest teams. The 72-10 Chicago Bulls of 1995/96 are remembered as one of the greatest teams in the history of sport, but their eighth loss of the year came to a team that finished the year with a 21-61 record, the third worst in the league that year. Not just that, but they suffered this shocking loss in front of 36,000 people; one of the biggest crowds in NBA history.

The Leafs are not the peak Jordan-era Bulls (yet?) but if they can lose to the first-season Toronto Raptors, I’m pretty sure a young Toronto Maple Leafs team can fall apart for half an hour in their first game back from the All-Star Break, which came barely after their bye week, while one of their top defencemen recovers from injury.

It’s not a loss to be proud of. It’s not a loss to take lightly. It’s a loss that the team should make the team as upset with themselves with almost as much as Babcock and friends probably were during it. It’s a loss that you don’t want to see something close to ever again.

But, it’s also probably not reflective of much. Sometimes, trying to figure out a narrative for the “why” is a waste of time. Sometimes, assuming that a few bad minutes is a sign of the hockey apocalypse is just a personal attack on your own insanity.

Or, you can be the person who assumes that the “Eighteen Wheeler” is coming back simply because of the team name on the logo, or the person who wants to trade Jake Gardiner because he made two mistakes tonight. Or you can be of whatever mindset brings you to this conclusion:

marner

The Leafs are still good, and if we look at the season to date as a sum and not just through a few-hour vacuum, we can probably expect quite a few more fun and crazy wins and point grabs yet. They’re not even remotely close to out of it, and they still have a bunch of games in hand on the rest of the league. Things could obviously go awry at some point in the next 34 games, but tonight wasn’t some sort of obvious tipping point.  

It was just a really, really bad single-game showing. Seriously, if you haven’t watched yet, stay away. It’s not worth it.