Maple Leafs play around the net leaves something to be desired

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
8 months ago
“Relax, they won.” “It’s just one game.”
These are two incredibly valid points that I take to heart when considering the Leafs late recovery to beat a Canadiens team that shouldn’t have given that much difficulty. It’s not too difficult to find easy targets for criticism when the Leafs gave up five goals on 24 shots, but while throwing Ilya Samsonov under the bus and having some concerns about him to start the year are also equally valid, I’m going to ask you to humour me on looking at some of the specifics.
The side of the heat map we’ll focus on to start is the 5v5 Montreal attempt side. You can see by the blue that the Leafs were giving up a high number of high danger chances at 5v5 given that they were able to limit Montreal to just 24 shots overall on the night. At 5v5 there were 9 high danger shot attempts against the Leafs, while they only managed 7 for and that is a big part of the reason why the Leafs were outscored 4-1 when playing at 5v5. Ilya Samsonov letting in 3 goals on his 5 high danger shots against is certainly something that needs to be improved upon, but reducing the number of high danger chances is an area that the defence needs to improve upon on a night when they were generally good at keeping the puck away from the net.
Not surprisingly the majority of the high danger shot attempts came against the McCabe and Klingberg pairing and while McCabe had 6 to Klingberg’s 5, there is going to be a theme of Klingberg being on defensive trouble for the Leafs.
Now looking at the other side of the chart you can see some criticism that needs to be directed towards the Leafs forwards. The shots from the Leafs were consistently coming from outside the high danger area and Jake Allen was able to go 4 for 4 on the ones that did come from within that zone. To put it mildly, the Leafs still need to do more to establish a presence in this important part of the ice. We saw Tyler Bertuzzi try to cause a commotion in front of the net from time to time, but that only resulting in one shot attempt for him from the area. Tavares led the way for the Leafs with two attempts and Minten, Domi, Matthews, and Jarnkrok round out the group that had chances, so there is at least something to be said for the opportunities coming from multiple lines and players.
Where it gets interesting is when you start looking at the Leafs in all situations and you see that gaining that part of the ice is not an issue when they have the man advantage or certainly when they have an odd man rush. When there is space the Leafs pursue the high percentage parts of the ice, but they remain reluctant when they have to fight for the space in a player to player situation. It didn’t hurt them last night as they picked up the win but for anyone looking to see the Leafs playing “Playoff Brand Hockey” at both ends of the ice Toronto came up short.
The good news is that is just the first game and the Leafs did win. There are still plenty of cobwebs that need to be dusted off so it’s definitely too early to be writing anyone off (even John Klingberg.)
Data from Natural Stat Trick

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