The first ten games have been less than fun unless you follow the Leafs for the chaos. In that case you’ve been all you could ask for and then some. While the Leafs have been underperforming it seems like it might be worthwhile to take a moment to look at some of the interesting ways in which they’ve been creating a toxic hockey viewing environment. Here are a few stats that stood out to me when I went looking.

Mitch Marner’s 4.06 Individual Shot Rate

Historically Mitch Marner has always been a playmaker, and that’s nothing new. Last season he added a bit more goal scoring to his repertoire and interestingly enough he’s been the top line’s best 5v5 goal scorer this season as well. What is interesting is that he probably should be doing a whole lot better as his shots per 60 number is down to 4.06 from 7.34 last season. Marner has always hovered around 7 shots per 60 throughout his career and the question here is whether he is making the decision to pass more or whether the opposition is taking away his chances.
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That’s a pretty bare shot chart for a first line forward ten games in, and what is of particular interest is the lack of high danger opportunities for Mitch.
This feels like the case for putting Nylander with Matthews, as Nylander has been getting his opportunities and could also create additional space for Matthews if the defense thinks there is a better chance of a shot from one of his linemates. If Marner insists on shooting and Keefe doesn’t want to split up his Matthews/Marner pairing, perhaps trying Nick Robertson with the duo is another option to give the top line another shooter.

Auston Matthews’ 1.95 GF/60 vs. his 3.71 xGF/60

I can see your eyes rolling as soon as I mention expected goals and I respect that. Expected goals can be an annoying concept, but as the season sample grows they start being a better indicator than maybe they are at the 10 game point of the season.
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What is interesting is how different this is playing out than it did last season when Matthews had a 3.61 xGF/60 and finished the year with a 4.49 GF/60. And you have to go back to Auston’s rookie year to see him with a GF/60 below 3. You can look at this one of two ways. The first is that Auston’s 5v5 goals will start coming and things will be grand again. Or Auston Matthews is broken and the Leafs are royally f&%#ed.

David Kampf’s 60.07 CA/60

Shot suppressor supreme David Kampf hasn’t been shutting down much this season. He’s seen his Corsi against jump from 50.23 CA/60 last season to 60.07 CA/60 this season. Additionally, his xGA/60 has jumped from 2.13 to 3.07. Perhaps the good news is that there hasn’t been too much of a change in the actual number of goals that have been going in against him at 5v5.
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A large part of this has been due to deployment and while it’s early on, it’s safe to say that Kampf’s style of defensive hockey doesn’t really mesh with Zach Aston-Reese or Nic Aube-Kubel’s physical style of play. Kampf needs suppressors and as his ice time with Engvall increases so do the numbers for both of the players. If someone like Calle Jarnkrok can establish themself as the Ondrej Kase or Ilya Mikheyev option to be affixed to that duo, the Leafs will be back to having a solid third line, but will also once again be in the situation where the team has no idea how to utilize checking forwards.

Morgan Rielly’s 4.3 GA/60 vs. TJ Brodie’s 2.79 GA/60

Those two rates represent the two worst goals against rates out of the Leafs defensemen who have played more than 20 minutes this season. They are also 2 of the 3 worst on the Leafs with John Tavares’ 2.85 being notably closer to Brodie’s number and again really making Morgan Rielly’s results stand out.
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Morgan Rielly has played five fewer minutes than Brodie this season, and about 2/3rds of their TOI this season at 5v5 has been spent together. Rielly’s next most frequent partner beside Brodie is Rasmus Sandin and actually has had better results with him in a small sample. In the 12 minutes Rielly has played with Giordano, they haven’t been scored on, and the 2 minutes of ice time Rielly has played with Kral, Muzzin, or Mete doesn’t really inform anything. What is interesting is in the 11 minutes Rielly has played with Justin Holl the duo has a 15.67 GA/60 and they have been scored on an astonishingly high three times in that time. The interesting lesson here is that while Rielly might not be a strong defensive player and a liability for the minutes and competition he gets, Justin Holl is still somehow worse this year and even former champions of Holl (like myself) have to concede he needs to find his way out of the lineup.
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Samsonov’s 1.068 GSAE/60

It seems like we should end this exercise with a positive stat and that is Samsonov being 7th in the league in goals saved above expected/60 at 5v5 out of goaltenders who have played more than 3 games. In contrast, Erik Kallgren is 21st out of 57 goaltenders with his .291 GSAE/60 at 5v5. (Where it shifts is if you look at all situations Samsonov drops to 9th, but Kallgren goes from 21st to 48th.)
Samsonov has been a bright spot for the Leafs, but it wouldn’t be the Leafs if we weren’t throwing some cold water on those numbers. Just like Jack Campbell had a low HDSV% last season, we’re seeing Samsonov struggle in that area as well. It is unlikely that Samsonov’s success will be sustainable unless the Leafs defense and the team at large provide more support to him in taking away opportunities in the most coveted parts of the ice.
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