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Breaking down the Cali road trip (and why the Leafs couldn’t score)

To say that this week didn’t meet the expectations of Leafs fans would be an understatement.

We started off the week on a three game win streak, with particularly big ones coming against Tampa Bay and Florida, and up next was three games against teams in the bottom five of the league (the Leafs were so far 9-0 against these five teams). What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot of things, actually. That’s why I’m here, to break down the trip to try and see what we can take away from it. Without further ado, let’s start.

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San Jose

So this one was definitely the worst game of the three, as we saw the Leafs only get 42.05% of the shot attempts at 5v5, and overall saw the expected goals fall 4.03-2.58 in favour of the Sharks.

However, it might not be the most telling stat for the entire game, as it’s skewered by a *really bad* second period, that saw the Leafs only get 22.22% of the shot attempts at 5v5, and saw the expected goals fall 1.64-0.63. To add to how weird this trip was, that period saw the Leafs score two goals, more than they did for the rest of the trip.

Otherwise, the Leafs had 55.77% of the shot attempts, although they still saw the expected goals fall 2.39-1.95. So it still wasn’t an amazing game, but it looks a little bit more reasonable. Plus, once you factor in that the team is still adjusting to the time zone, injured, and had the long change in the second period, and it makes a bit more sense.

Now, I’m not excusing them for this game. This was probably the one that saw them get goalied the least. But, it was far from the disaster of a game it’s been described as, and I think the play where Marincin and Marner almost connected on a goal only for it to go the other way and see a fluky bounce result in a goal is pretty telling of what this game (and the whole week) was.

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Los Angeles

This was easily the best game of the week for the Leafs, and I’m not saying that just because it was the one that they got a point in.

The Kings clogged up the neutral zone to slow down the Leafs and keep the pace low, and the Leafs managed to adjust their game well to play a style that fit their opponent, while still having possession of the puck, as they had 58.24% of the shot attempts at even strength and saw the expected goals fall in their favour at 3.77-2.55.

The problem is that Jonathan Quick forgot what year he was in and thought it was 2012 again. The Leafs just couldn’t get anything by him, and suddenly the team that hadn’t been shut out all season got shut out by the team that didn’t have a shutout all year.

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Wow, more weirdness. Sometimes bad goalies have good games. Even Hutchinson and Sparks had a couple decent ones for us in their time here. It sucks, but they played well and deserved to win. Moving on.

Anaheim

For the second night in a row, it was a case of “our goalie played good, but their’s was slightly better”. Now, the Leafs had a bit of a worse game than the LA game, but that tends to happen on the second half of a back to back (and third game in four nights) on the road. Why this game wasn’t played on Saturday, or they just go Monday-Wednesday-Friday on the week, I’ll never know.

But that’s the vibe I got from this game. We saw a tired team get goalied by John Gibson, who is probably the most understandable case of getting goalied this week, and when he got hurt, they managed to get one goal on five shots on Ryan Miller.

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The dumb luck of the game (and the whole trip) was summarized by the second goal, particularly with how it was created because of the weird timing of Matthews spin and the hit he got. Like, if I was playing a game in NHL 20, and it was going exactly like this and this second goal happened, I probably would’ve snapped my controller in half off the coffee table. It’s just the weird luck that comes with this sport.

Overall

So, there’s certainly a theme to this week, and that’s weirdness. Every game had it’s own way of getting weird bounces resulting in the Leafs not scoring, and the other teams scoring. All the California goalies rocked a .968 save percentage against us (.978 if you take out Ryan Miller) in a trip that saw us good to great for two games and two periods.

It sucks that we only got one point in these three games. It sucks that it came against three of the worst teams in the league. It sucks that we didn’t create any more space from the Panthers when it was in our grasp. But, a lot of the freak out is because of the timing, particularly because it happened in three straight games. If these results had happened in our home games against them in October, November, and February, we wouldn’t have looked into it as much as we have.

It was a weird week. We still have five points on hand (albeit with two extra games played). The sky isn’t falling. It would’ve been nice if we could’ve gotten those points, but we got goalied in games we played good to great in.

We’ll be fine.