19

It’s Okay If The Leafs Lose This Series

We should be used to it by now.

Initially there is some hope with seeing how the Leafs were able to play during the regular season. A team that plays a fast-paced style can go as far as their offense can take them. But it can also come crashing down at any moment.

Being firmly in a playoff spot pretty much all year, this postseason is all we could think about for months on end. Expectations got a little high for what this team could do, and we should be humbled ever so slightly.

The Leafs are facing a team with an aging core and an urge to win right now. They have young peripheral players, but none can compare to our young stars and the potential that they have. Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Backes, and Marchand, will all be decrepit old men when the Leafs will still be playing good hockey.

That matchup just didn’t go Toronto’s way. As echoed throughout every hockey podcast or blog; put the Leafs up against anyone else in the East and they will most likely win that series or take it all the way to the end. This is very speculative, but I would have rather seen what they could have done even against the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning. The two teams that are steamrolling their competition just as the Bruins are doing to our precious team.

With all that said, if Andersen still had a .880 sv% in any series, that’s bad news for the Leafs. So who really knows what would have happened if we ended up facing the Lightning in the first round. Who really knows if the Leafs got lucky on a few chances and Tuukka Rask just fell flat on his face to lose the series? Anything could have happened, but it just didn’t happen the way we wanted it to.

We can ponder all day about the “ifs and buts”, but hockey is the luckiest game on the planet and the Leafs were just unlucky in the majority of this series so far. Naturalstattrick has the Leafs at a 55.56 SCF% at even-strength in the four games played so far –  behind the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Leafs have had the ever-so-slight upper hand in even-strength scoring chances throughout this series, that plays out well in a bigger sample size but this is the playoffs where one powerplay can just change an entire team’s reputation.

Everything is fine.

Expectations were increased tenfold compared to last year, unfortunately. Battling the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and pushing them to six games was seen as an accomplishment for a team that finished dead-last the previous season – and it was. But now that the Leafs are seen as a good team that can bring it offensively every night, it was almost assumed that they would be trouble or win against any opponent.

This is just one year removed from everyone proclaiming that they are just “happy to be here” and that not getting swept is a win, that’s a mighty big leap. There’s still positions to improve on and an insane amount of young talent that have not even come close to their potential. This team is in the best position to win in the future among the entire league, a generational young talent and a very good crop of young budding stars that can always bring something offensively.

I know it is really terrible to have patience, especially when the fans have suffered enough for multiple decades, but this team is not that far removed from having Mike Kostka play 22 minutes a game. So let’s all take a deep breath and appreciate where we currently are.

Everything could be much, much worse and you don’t have to look outside our own province to see that.

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  • Romance14

    “They have young peripheral players, but none can compare to our young stars and the potential that they have.”

    You do realize Pastrnak has 11 points, right? Marner has 5, Matthews has 1 and Nylander has 1.

    • Granted, Pastrnak is playing on the best line in hockey, with proven Canadian Olympians against a defensively weak team. There is no way you can say Pastrnak is better than Mitch Marner, much less Matthews. Maybe he and Nylander are on the same plane but Nylander will be superior. Pastrnak also has a full year on Matthews and two years on the development of the others.

      • OnDaWagon

        That “best line” was without their “best” center last night, and “that line” still beat your team. So that would lead me to believe it doesn’t need all 3 of them. Which makes your “superior” players, not so superior at all.

        I been rooting for your team, but i seem to see the game the way it is actually being played. You should try it, you might accept reality.

      • lukewarmwater

        The reason Pastrnak, and Marchand have played better playoff hockey is that both are fearless. They are willing to drive to the net as that is where most of there goals have come from. They will take the pounding and the rat will dish it right back with a few extra cheap shots thrown in for extra measure. I think the three leafs will be superior regular season players. Will they grow a pair in future playoffs, because if they don’t the likes of a young Pastrnak and other young stars in the league who are willing to pay the price of tough physical hockey in the playoffs will out play them every time.

  • FlareKnight

    I’m fine with the overall message of the future is still good. Maybe not the young stars that can always bring something offensively bit. We’re in this position because our young stars didn’t show up and produce offensively.

    Just a sad reminder that this team is far off from winning. There is a mountain of work to do and we’ll have to see if they can manage it.

    It isn’t fine if the Leafs lose the series. I’m not sliding back into that ‘who cares’ mentality of the mediocrity years. This team under-performed and that’s bad. They have a chance to win in the future. But falling on their faces like this should never be seen as okay.

    • lukewarmwater

      Knight, well said, speaking of Knights look how Vegas has continued their play into the playoffs, playing tough, physical hockey against a strong, physical L.A. team.

  • OnDaWagon

    Thoughts on Game “4”: Goaltending -BAD, Plekanec – SO-SO, and Matthews – BAD.

    I see you using many excuses for the way the series has gone. Pity. Many reasons why this series is 3-1 Boston, but the main reason is TEAMWORK. Better goaltending. Better defence. Better overall forwards.

    I’m not running your sweetheart AUSTIN down, but if it wasn’t for Marner, this would already be over.

    It’s not over yet. The winner has to win 4.

    Write something not so childish, and you might get more posters.

    • lukewarmwater

      You are being a tad hard on him but I find a lot of journalists these days can’t seem to get the concept that the playoffs are a different brand of game. My goodness the Toronto Raptors have found that out the hard way for a number of years now. This season they are the team taking the physicality to the other team in the playoffs. Sorry folks this is indeed not rocket science. You have to declare war in the playoffs and beat the snot out of your opponent with hit after hit, take hits and grind out there by showing tenacity and grit on every shift.

  • lukewarmwater

    It seems there is a fairly large segment of fans out there that it is just all fine that half of the team, the peripheral players refuse to put on the playoff war outfits and insist on still competing for the Lady Byng trophy. THAT AIN’T FREAKING FINE.
    Btw here is a home work assignment for the author of this article and I know you likely have time as countless and I mean countless hours are spent on Corsi and again to a certain segment of leaf fans they are shouting it is all good we beat the BRUINS IN CORSI. The Bruin player will point to the score board and simply say son repeat the final score of the game. I want you to analyse how the leafs played against Washington last year compared to the way the leafs have played Boston this year. If you are honest you will admit that last year’s team was considerably more physical against Washington and took the Capitals to several o.t. games.
    But the most fascinating line in this whole article is the reference to the veteran Bruin players none of who play peripheral hockey. As Marchand’s middle name is suspension, while Chara took out Patches and the crazy Hab fans wanted the R.C.M.P. to investigate. Even the former Liberal sports minister and Mayor of Montreal Denis Cordere felt that Chara should have been charged. Backes is another mean piece of work who got suspended this year. Bergeron and Krejci don’t shy away from the physicality and will be right on top of Andersen. Compare that with our fine skating youngsters who in their young career seem to appreciate Virtue and Moir more than tough nosed, grinder, take no prisoner playoff players. You don’t have to be big, but your heart has to be big as several smaller Bruins have thrown out a lot of checks. Compare that with the number of checks that Zaitsev, Gardiner and Reilly have thrown. So you better hope that the three key stars, namely Nylander, Matthews and Marner learn how to play a much more physical game in the playoffs. That also goes for youngsters like Kappy and Brown. The forward who probably has been the best defensively and has worked his butt off on the so called top line is Hyman who plays the perfect playoff style. Throws checks is willing to take a pounding in front of the net and proudly exemplifies the style a team must play to succeed in the playoffs.
    Watch how physical Tampa has been against the Devils. Watch Crosby play nasty in the playoffs, ask P.K. how his head was after Syd the Kid used it to pound into the ice several times.
    So obviously a hell of a lot of work to be done on the defence and Andersen has to be cured of that disease he picked up late in the season and the playoffs namely softgoalitis. Plus our $50 million dollar man has to along with leaping Lou and the rest of the coach staff create a couple of lines where all you feed them is raw meat in the playoffs.
    If you don’t you will watch an extremely entertaining regular season team that will get you 100 points. But don’t cancel that planned holiday two weeks after the playoffs start. I didn’t cancel mine as the writing was so evidently written on the wall. Sad that so many leaf fans can’t read that writing.

    • Bob Canuck

      Lukewarmwater,

      The Leafs being soft in the Toronto-Boston series is a lovely narrative. Unfortunately, the data belies your argument.

      All data from NHL.com and is through 4 games. I have used hits and takeaways as a measure of how physical a team is; I think these two stats are a reasonable proxy.

      The NHL website has defined a takeaway as “a form of turnover in which the player takes the puck from the opposition, rather than gaining possession through an opposition error”. Hits are “the number of body checks delivered by a player on the opposing team’s puck carrier”.

      Total hits
      Boston – 137 (4th most); Toronto – 134 (6th most)

      Takeaways
      Boston – 20 (12th most); Toronto – 34 (3rd most)

      I don’t see how having 3 fewer hits over 4 games is evidence that a team is relatively soft. How does a soft team take the puck away 14 more times than the vastly more-physical opposition? Maybe the differences in physicalness are not nearly as large as stated.

      Oh, Pittsburgh has 111 hits (11th) and Tampa has 123 (10th).

      How have the top lines performed?

      Hits
      Bergeron line – 14 (Bergeron has 4; Marchand has 4)
      Matthews line – 15 (Matthews has 7; Nylander has 1)

      Takeaways
      Bergeron line – 5 (Bergeron has 2; Marchand has 3)
      Matthews line – 4 (Matthews has 2; Nylander has 2)

      You were correct that the Leafs-Caps series was more physical. The Caps had 40.2 hits per game; the Leafs had 42.7. In the Leafs-Bruins series, the Leafs have averaged 33.5 hits per game. If you take out Matt Martin’s 6.7 hits per game, the 2017 playoff Leafs averaged 36.0 hits, which is not much higher than this year. The Leafs averaged 8.2 takeaways per game against the Caps, which is slightly less than this season’s playoff figure of 8.5 per game. The 2017 data was also courtesy of NHL.com.

      • lukewarmwater

        Bob I got to admit you never cease to amaze me. Did you actually ever play the game??? Seriously have you no concept of the total difference of the way the Buins are being totally physical in front of Andersen whereas guys like Nylander , Matthews, Bozak, and several others play a peripheral game. You can stay up all night which you obviously do and have a gazillion stats supposably supporting your distorted theories but maybe we can arrange to have you out on the ice at the final bell and have you read your never ending meaningless stat. The big bad Bruin will take off his glove and simply say kid see my finger it is pointing to the score board. Corsi up your rear end. We won the leafs lost. Sad you can’t comprehend it. But heh if stats make your life go for it kid. What ever makes you happy. But get this and get it straight this team doesn’t win till it is the initiator of the scrums, the big hard hits, the club that is constantly doing a number on the opposition goalie. Quite seriously I think you should stick to Virtue and Moir.

        • Kanuunankuula

          So he gave you a valid argument, and your response is this? Give your head a shake and maybe consider sometimes that you’re not the #1 scout in the NHL, you don’t have all the answers and are not a NHL player either.

          And at least be a little respectful.

          • lukewarmwater

            Do I have all the answers of course not, but I do have 60 years of experience watching the major league sports so I do think I have a fair amount of knowledge of the different games. Btw maybe Bob Canuck could do an extensive study or find one on the number of crease infractions on goalies. I’m sure Andersen and his poor head would be close to the top. He played the second most minutes of a goalie as Babcock ran him into the ground even though the back up Curtis gave us some absolutely solid games for much of the year. Am I opposed to all the new stats as more and more are created each season. Not at all, but they can be over used as I will give a couple of examples. The Jays just swept a K.C. team that is in rebuild stage. There manager Ned Yost who took the Royals to within one game of the world series played the stat use of doing the shift of the infield. As well the stats show different Jays pull the ball 80% of the time. Yost carried it to an extreme as at times there was literally 115 feet of open space for a Jay to go to the opposite field. Well Gibby has a different cast this year and guys are simply taking advantage of it. Yost never changed his philosophy in the whole series and got blown out 4 straight. I’m sure he simply stated, but, but, but man here are the stats and 80% of the time he will pull the ball.
            Now the N.B.A. is riddled with stats and last night there were some plays that the stats guys simply can’t come up with regarding the Raptors. How do you keep a stat of a punk Morris going after O.G. a Raps rookie. How do you keep a stat of Lowry rightfully getting a flagrant foul while O.G. is driven into a post and there is no call. Twice their were major altercations on the floor as similar to hockey basketball in the playoffs becomes war. King James had his team walk off the court the other night with out shaking the hands or hugging the Pacers. Lebron takes no prisoners he will do anything to win. Mean while our all-star guard Kyle Lowry after seeing his young team mates mugged out there is patting the back of Wall during the game and it was Wall who committed the flagrant foul on O.G. So where is the stat of a suddenly playing physical tough Wizard team knowing that only Ibaka and Jonas are ready to retaliate. How does a Siakam feel after the game getting stitches put in his mouth after a king size elbow delivered to his face, no call of course, how does O.G. feel when he sees the leader chumming up with Wall and Beal the guys that worked him over in the game.
            You see what it comes down to is no matter if Bob or others stay up all night, you can’t measure toughness, the size of a guys heart, physicality in the playoffs. Case in point Kappy snows Rask and all of a sudden he has 4 Bruins on him while the leafs simply idly stand by. This is what is meant by physicality, it is a true captain like Steve Stamkos seeing his top scorer get a knee on knee and Stamkos dropping the gloves and getting 17 minutes of penalties. You don’t think that doesn’t inspire the Tampa team.
            As I stated you can produce more pages than war and peace on stats but the bottom line as I stated to Bob the Bruin player will simply state look at the score board kid. That Corsi which the leafs seem to win a lot of nights didn’t help them on the score board did it kid. But keep finding and learning new stats. The Bruin player will simply continue to win against teams not built for the playoffs. So sadly when a guy simply throws nothing but stats at me and the team winning those stats are losing. Well sorry Kanuunankuula he doesn’t get my respect, in other words similar to King James I don’t shake his hand in the playoff series. Not till it is over.

          • lukewarmwater

            Booby its playoff time baby, Lady Byng hockey doesn’t win in the playoffs. But on a serious note to spend that much freaking time to troll is truly amazing as you just seem to regurgiate stat after stat from more than one direction of your body. Bottom line too bad you were not a leaf fan in the end of the 1960’s and you could have been writing this pablum puking stat b.s. all those years. Guess how many cups the leafs won with non physical , intimidating playoff hockey Booby??? Zero, nada, zilch. Heh I’ve had enough reading your b.s. Btw Kanucklead above reminds you that mom wants you to bring home a quart of milk and a loaf of bread for you. Lord give me strength to have to put up with losers like these. Please do respond but remember to untie your pink thongs that are tied up in knots. I’ll forget more about hockey than you two clowns will ever learn. I certainly won’t read your drivel stats.

  • Bob Canuck

    The Leafs-Boston series has been much closer than many people have argued. Through 4 games, at 5v5 (score and venue adjusted), the Leafs data is as follows:

    Corsi For% – 51.4%
    Scoring Chances For% – 53.3%
    High Danger Scoring Chances For% – 50.2%

    So, in terms of possession, and having a larger share of scoring chances and high danger scoring chances, the Leafs are on the correct side of the ledger at 5v5. The play has been very even.

    So why are the Leafs trailing in the series? The answer is primarily the difference in goaltending.

    If you look at Delta Save Percentage (dSV%), the difference between Rask and Andersen is vast.

    Blueshirtsbreakaway has a very good definition of this stat. “This stat is the difference between a goalie’s expected save percentage and his actual save percentage. This is a very valuable stat that helps show how much better (or worse) a goalie is doing compared to how an average goalie would have performed given the quality of shots he has faced”.

    Looking at all situations, the data is as follows:

    Save Percentage
    Rask – 92.62%; Andersen – 87.96%

    Delta Save Percentage
    Rask – positive 1.88 (Rank – 6th)
    Andersen – negative 4.35 (Rank – 15th)

    Data courtesy of Corsica; goalies with a minimum of 100 minutes played during the 2017-2018 playoffs.

    In other words, Rask has performed at a level that is 1.88 percentage points better than the average goalie given the quality of shots faced. Andersen is 4.35 percentage points worse than the average goalie given the quality of shots faced. Freddie has been bad.

    Of the 4 games to date, Rask has had 1 game where his dSV% was negative; that was in Game 3. Andersen has had 1 game when his dSV% was positive; that was Game 3. Coincidentally, the Leafs won Game 3.

    Do the Leafs have to play better? Yes. Do they need more from the Matthews line? Yes. But Freddie has to play much, much better if the series is to go beyond 5 games.

    • lukewarmwater

      So according to you obviously the leafs have won the series 4 to 0, What’s that you say the Bruins are up 3 to 1. Well I hope you keep your little stats on toilet paper so you can flush them down the toilet. Btw change it to another sport, the Jays an obvious inferior team to the New York Yankees in many , many baseball stats are 13 and 7 , the Yankees the all powerful Yankees are a stinking 10 and 9. So basically you confirm that stats are for losers and the Ned Yosts of the world who stubbornly shift their infield for four straight games and get the snot beaten out of them. But Booby its stats man and stats don’t lie. You know the line about stats and liars don’t you Booby.