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Analyzing Leafs Lines: 3 Charts

This is the first in a perpetual series that will use visual representations and charts in hopes of teaching us something new about the Leafs. There are always difficult choices that are made when visually representing data, and so feedback and discussion on the graphics and their implications are encouraged. For now, I plan on keeping the insights from the charts short and in bullet format, so that the reader can enjoy the visual and create their own findings.

The topic for today’s post looks at the Leafs forward lines, specifically leveraging Expected Goals data from EvolvingHockey.com. Expected Goals are a way of quantifying both shot quantity and quality – if a player or line is controlling quality chances on the ice it should manifest in these numbers. Expected Goals are by no means a perfect metric, but is a quick and easy snapshot of on-ice results. This post relies on acronyms for player names to save space in the graphics – luckily all Leafs acronyms are unique and should be self explanatory – but feel free to comment with any questions.

Leafs Centers

Chart Details: This chart displays 5v5 Expected Goals Percentage in 2019-20 by the various line combinations. A line with an xGF% above 50% should be interpreted as controlling the majority of chances on the ice. Data points are ordered and sized according to that lines total time on ice.

Observations:

  • The lines that played the most together were largely successful in controlling chances. Both of Matthew’s top lines, as well as the top Tavares line, were successful in controlling chances.
  • John Tavares had a lot of line combinations. According to the EvolvingHockey data, Tavares had 7 line combinations over the course of the year. Some were obviously better than others, with the Kapanen/Marner and Kapanen/Hyman combination looking particularly poor.
  • In limited minutes (37 minutes), the Matthews/Taveres/Nylander line was totally dominant, controlling 77% of Expected Goals while they were on the ice together.

 

Top Lines – Expected Goals For and Against

Chart Details: This chart displays 5v5 Expected Goals For vs. Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes in 2019-20 by the various line combinations. This chart was filtered for simplicity to only include lines with more than 10 games played in the 2019-20 season. The orange lines represent the simple average of xGF and xGA for Leafs lines. Data points are ordered and sized according to that lines total time on ice.

Observations:

  • The Leafs top lines by TOI are above average offensively and about average defensively (keep in mind, these are relative to the team average). The top two lines for most of the year are in a similar cluster around 3 xGF and 2.5 xGA.
  • There aren’t many Leafs line combinations that are good at defense and bad at offense. If the line is bad at offense, they are also bad at defense.
  • Worst line combination goes to Tavares/Kapanen/Hyman – with roughly 2 xGF/60 and 4 xGA/60 – they were a liability on the ice together.
  • Best line combination unsurprisingly goes to Matthews/Tavares/Nylander which, as noted above, was domination while on the ice.

Top Lines – Corsi For and Against

Chart Details: This chart displays 5v5 Corsi For vs. Corsi Against per 60 minutes in 2019-20 by the various line combinations. This chart was filtered for simplicity to only include lines with more than 10 games played in the 2019-20 season. The orange lines represent the simple average of CF and CA for Leafs lines. Data points are ordered and sized according to that lines total time on ice.

Observations:

  • The top lines aren’t clustered in this chart, suggesting they generate offense in different ways. The Matthews/Johnsson/Nylander line generated lots of shot volume while the other lines appear to rely more on higher quality chances.
  • Worst line goes to the Timashov/Gauthier/Spezza line which was dominated. Best line once again goes to the Matthews/Tavares/Nylander trifecta.

 

That’s all for today – hope you enjoyed the charts. All data was pulled from EvolvingHockey.com and is for 5v5 with score and venue adjustments.

-Mackinaw Stats