After getting absolutely destroyed by Buffalo on Tuesday night, it wouldn’t hurt to feel a little good about something, so it’s time to talk about special teams. Or at least comparing them to the rest of the league to feel better about the Leafs.
Heading into Tuesday night the Leafs were pretty close to 30%, at 29.4% success rate on the powerplay. This is 3% higher than the next closest team. For all our complaints about the powerplay, it’s absolutely been a bright spot for the Leafs, and if there isn’t an erosion of penalties come playoff time (gulp) it’s a great advantage for Toronto to have in the postseason.
As for the penalty kill, it’s a little worse, and comes in at 6th in the league, but you’ll see, it’s actually better than when you factor in a few extra details in a little bit. The Leafs are the best of the Atlantic teams when it comes to the penalty kill, and perhaps this is an argument for Toronto to want a penalty laden first round.
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One of the measures for success used around the NHL as a predictor of how good a team really is in the combination of PP+PK to give an overall score, so I thought I’d share that special teams score here:
Team
Special Teams Combined
Toronto Maple Leafs
112.9
Carolina Hurricanes
111.3
St. Louis Blues
109.3
New York Rangers
108
Pittsburgh Penguins
107.2
Calgary Flames
107
Boston Bruins
105.1
San Jose Sharks
104.8
Nashville Predators
104.5
New York Islanders
104.3
Colorado Avalanche
104
Edmonton Oilers
103.2
Anaheim Ducks
103
Florida Panthers
103
Tampa Bay Lightning
102.9
Washington Capitals
101.3
Dallas Stars
100.8
Ottawa Senators
99.6
New Jersey Devils
97.3
Winnipeg Jets
96.3
Vancouver Canucks
96.1
Chicago Blackhawks
96
Columbus Blue Jackets
95.9
Vegas Golden Knights
95.9
Minnesota Wild
95.8
Buffalo Sabres
95.4
Los Angeles Kings
93.4
Detroit Red Wings
90.8
Seattle Kraken
89.2
Philadelphia Flyers
88.4
Montréal Canadiens
88.2
Arizona Coyotes
86.7
So heading into Tuesday night the Leafs were in fact the best special teams team in the league, using the raw numbers. And other than the Minnesota Wild, the only teams outside the top 16 are the bubble teams Dallas, Vegas, and Los Angeles.
The interesting thing that NHL.com does is track the “net” powerplay and penalty kill results, counting goals against on the powerplay and goals for on the penalty kill as -1 on the overall numbers. The goals against on the powerplay cost the Leafs 2%, but their shorthanded scoring success moves them up to having the second best penalty kill in the league behind Carolina. When you look at the net results you can see a much more sizable advantage for the Leafs over the rest of the league.
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Team
Net Special Teams Combined
Toronto Maple Leafs
117.2
Carolina Hurricanes
111.4
St. Louis Blues
111.4
New York Rangers
109.9
Calgary Flames
108.7
Pittsburgh Penguins
105.7
Florida Panthers
104.8
Colorado Avalanche
104.8
Boston Bruins
104.4
Edmonton Oilers
104.3
Anaheim Ducks
103.9
Nashville Predators
103.6
Tampa Bay Lightning
103.4
New York Islanders
102.2
Washington Capitals
101.6
Dallas Stars
101.5
San Jose Sharks
101.2
Ottawa Senators
101.1
Vegas Golden Knights
98
Winnipeg Jets
97
Columbus Blue Jackets
96.1
Vancouver Canucks
95.8
New Jersey Devils
95
Los Angeles Kings
94.9
Buffalo Sabres
94.6
Minnesota Wild
94.4
Chicago Blackhawks
94.2
Seattle Kraken
89.7
Detroit Red Wings
88.9
Philadelphia Flyers
86.7
Montréal Canadiens
86.1
Arizona Coyotes
85.7
That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t really consider the fact that teams aren’t equally on powerplays or being shorthanded. It also doesn’t really account for the number of times that some teams are involved in fewer special teams situations than others, in fact at this point there’s a range of the Predators and Canadiens being on special teams 470 times down to the Islanders who have only found themselves in 359 special team situations. There’s also quite a range when it comes to powerplay-penalty kill differential, with the Leafs falling 22nd in the league being shorthanded nine more times than they’ve had the powerplay.
Team
PP Opp
TSH
Total Special Team Events
PP Op-TSH
Pittsburgh Penguins
227
186
413
41
Colorado Avalanche
244
209
453
35
Los Angeles Kings
226
201
427
25
Vancouver Canucks
224
206
430
18
Washington Capitals
217
200
417
17
Dallas Stars
216
201
417
15
Winnipeg Jets
227
213
440
14
Chicago Blackhawks
213
199
412
14
New Jersey Devils
200
188
388
12
Buffalo Sabres
197
185
382
12
St. Louis Blues
209
200
409
9
Philadelphia Flyers
209
200
409
9
Florida Panthers
233
228
461
5
San Jose Sharks
196
191
387
5
Detroit Red Wings
204
201
405
3
Tampa Bay Lightning
224
222
446
2
New York Islanders
180
179
359
1
Anaheim Ducks
204
204
408
0
Ottawa Senators
214
215
429
-1
Vegas Golden Knights
191
192
383
-1
Seattle Kraken
191
197
388
-6
Toronto Maple Leafs
197
206
403
-9
Minnesota Wild
215
227
442
-12
Edmonton Oilers
212
224
436
-12
Calgary Flames
203
216
419
-13
New York Rangers
193
207
400
-14
Columbus Blue Jackets
192
211
403
-19
Boston Bruins
209
230
439
-21
Montréal Canadiens
224
246
470
-22
Nashville Predators
222
248
470
-26
Carolina Hurricanes
210
249
459
-39
Arizona Coyotes
177
219
396
-42
So while we might feel the league is out to get the Leafs, I guess we can take comfort in the fact that the Bruins and Hurricanes still get more calls against them, even if they may deserve it more.
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The frequency in which teams get penalties called for or against them created the below weighted net numbers, and sadly, thanks to the refs being out to get the Hurricanes, the Leafs actually only have the second best special teams in comparison to the rest of the league.
Team
Weighted Net Special Teams
Carolina Hurricanes
124.76
Toronto Maple Leafs
120.11
New York Rangers
114.31
Calgary Flames
112.97
Boston Bruins
111.13
Nashville Predators
110.74
St. Louis Blues
108.66
Edmonton Oilers
107.71
Anaheim Ducks
103.90
Florida Panthers
103.46
Columbus Blue Jackets
102.94
Tampa Bay Lightning
102.82
New York Islanders
101.81
Ottawa Senators
101.41
Arizona Coyotes
101.19
San Jose Sharks
99.33
Vegas Golden Knights
98.36
Minnesota Wild
97.65
Dallas Stars
97.39
Colorado Avalanche
96.92
Washington Capitals
96.27
Pittsburgh Penguins
93.87
Winnipeg Jets
93.32
Montréal Canadiens
92.89
Seattle Kraken
91.87
Vancouver Canucks
91.39
Buffalo Sabres
91.01
New Jersey Devils
90.72
Chicago Blackhawks
90.50
Detroit Red Wings
87.97
Los Angeles Kings
87.41
Philadelphia Flyers
83.64
So what does any of this mean, well, it means it’s in the Leafs best interest to steer into games that are more heavily called and not so game managed. The Leafs have had 9th fewest number of calls for or against in a game, but can hopefully seek comfort in the fact that Florida, Tampa, and Boston are all in the top 10 of special teams instances. Even if the refs are seemingly putting their whistles away by the standards of those games, that could be upswing in special teams for the Leafs, and that’s not a bad thing, except for the fact that calls tend to favour Florida and Tampa, and no matter how good the Leafs penalty kill is, there’s no advantage to being on the penalty kill.
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Data sourced from NHL.com
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