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Photo Credit: © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Show me decent goaltending and I’ll show you a good Leafs team

The trade deadline is next week and can anyone honestly come up with a proper assessment of what the Leafs might need to really improve their team? I can’t. It’s almost impossible to zone in on a target to fill the “weaknesses” in Toronto’s lineup because, frankly, this godawful goaltending recently has sent everything off-kilter.

Let’s run down through a few simple numbers, shall we?

Since January 1st, 2020:

  • For goalies with 10+ games played, Frederik Andersen is 37th in save percentage (.880) among 37 goalies. Yes, dead last. If you turn that filter down to 5+ games, Michael Hutchinson and his .891 also rears its ugly head.
  • The Leafs are 6th in goals scored per game, clipping along at a rate of 3.35
  • The Leafs are 2nd (or 2nd worst, whatever) in goals against per game, at 3.50. To put that in perspective, the last place Red Wings, a team on pace for like 17 points in the standings, are at 3.57.

There’s no other way to slice it, this Leafs team is being sunk by poor goaltending. And trust me, I know what that looks like, having lived through the Toskala and Gustavsson years with the scars to prove it.

But what about all the other narratives we had in mind? “Let’s get rid of Kapanen!”…”Tyson Barrie is bad, the Leafs lost that trade”…”The Leafs need to just try harder.”

No, it’s goaltending. (And to some extent never getting an edge in powerplays).

Goaltending. When it goes off a cliff like this, everyone scrambles for any angle they can find to put it on the team as a whole. But the team is okay, the skaters are doing fine. The fact they’ve lifted this team into the playoff picture again despite what’s been happening between the pipes the last two months is actually impressive on its own.

Because that type of goaltending can sink a team. It will sink this team if it keeps up. Don’t believe me?

A swing of fifteen goals. Potentially eight points in the standings. These numbers aren’t bullet-proof but they give you an idea how things can go sideways when 12 percent of shots are going in the back of your net. This is no joke; It isn’t hyperbole to say Kyle Dubas can eventually lose his job over it.

Look, it probably wouldn’t hurt for the Leafs to just try riding Jack Campbell for a bit. Sheldon Keefe said last night that the team has to kick things into gear because they’re going to run out of games. His point was about their efforts of late – and make no mistake, they got run over by a better team in the Penguins last night – but he might want to take his own advice and throw in the only guy who’s been able to show something resembling game-stealing ability in the last little stretch. This team needs a save so badly.

And as our own Cam Lewis pointed out yesterday, this wouldn’t be the end of the world.

The better way to go about business is the way teams like Dallas (Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin), Boston (Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak), Arizona (Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta), the Islanders (Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov), and Columbus (Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzļikins) are operating. Those teams are all using the two-goalie strategy and are rolling with the hot hand. None of those teams has a goalie who’s going to have to play 70 games. Their season won’t get derailed if their main guy goes down with an injury. They also aren’t screwed every time they have a back-to-back.

We don’t have to cry about a “goalie controversy” if this happens. No one’s feelings have to get hurt. The team just needs to win games and finally put some separation between themselves and the teams on the outside. There’s no reason that a team that was supposed to be a contender should have its fans terrified of a game against the Penguins or Hurricanes or Lightning, but that’s where things are right now, and that’s who the Leafs have on the docket for the coming week. What a time for someone to get in there and stop this bleeding.