North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

What can the Leafs point steak tell us about their 2013 postseason?

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It’s been a while since I weighed in on the Leafs, I suppose with good reason: there wasn’t much I wanted to say. They were good, for a while and then, for another while, they were not good. As March started, they dropped five games in a row, including shootout losses to Pittsburgh and Winnipeg that drove my creative lobes into an apoplexy. It didn’t help this went alongside the Raptors also bottoming out and blowing their infinitesimally small chances at a postseason spot.

But like I said, things have gotten better. The Leafs have won a few games and even when they lost, they’re still getting the NHL’s Loser Point. Indeed, starting with that shootout loss to Winnipeg, the Leafs have picked up at least one point per game. That’s a seven-game stretch, their best such stretch of the season. Let’s break it down a little:

  • March 16, Winnipeg @ Toronto: The Jets explode toa  4-1 lead in the second period, but Toronto comes back and ties the game. They lose in the tenth round of the shootout.
  • March 20, Tampa Bay @ Toronto: The Leafs win 4-2, although the Lightning rally for two goals in the third. Kadri picks up three assists, too.
  • March 21, Toronto @ Buffalo: a back and forth game, tied for good with Kadri’s third period goal. The shootout again goes deep (six rounds this time) and again, Toronto comes out on the short end.
  • March 23, Boston @ Toronto: Toronto leads most of the game but Boston rallies late, scoring two goals and pressuring for an equalizer as the third period ends. I think it was Phaneuf who made a game-saving puck clear. Toronto beats the Bruins for the first time in a couple of seasons. Kadri scores again, too.
  • March 25, Toronto @ Boston: Toronto goes ahead 2-0 in the second, but Boston ties the game up and it goes to a shootout. Characteristically, the Leafs lose.
  • March 26, Florida @ Toronto: another back and forth game, this time won by Toronto.
  • March 28, Carolina @ Toronto: the Leafs were down 3-2 in the third period but scored four unanswered late goals. Lupul’s third period goal was a beauty, too.

Notice any trends? I’m nowhere near as smart a hockey guy as Cam Charron and the guys at Leafs Nation, but even I’ve picked up a couple: Toronto’s had a nice stretch of home games, played some weak competition (Carolina, Tampa and Florida are all probably going to miss the postseason) and can’t win on the road. They’ve struggled late, too and been lucky to escape in a few games (the home win over Boston comes to mind). It’s a stretch where their goaltending has carried them, although it’s nice to see Kadri still performing pretty well.

A side question: if we’re picking a team MVP to this point, where do we look? Kadri leads the team in points and has been a standout all season. Over at McKeen’s Hockey, he was listed as one of the 30 best scorers in the NHL today. And looking at advanced stats, he’s been pretty good: he leads the team in Point Shares and, as of this writing, has a Corsi Relative of 13.9. But the thing I can’t get out of my mind about these Leafs is how good their goaltending’s been: both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have played great all season long, keeping Toronto in a bunch of games where the defence either melted down late or just wasn’t there to begin with. I feel like all season long, Toronto’s been outshot. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think it’s worth noting that both Scrivens and Reimer are among the top 20 goalies in save percentage – although both Ottawa and Chicago are too, with better numbers to boot.

It all comes together for a question that’s been percolating at the back of my mind for a while now: which Toronto is going to be in the postseason? They haven’t clinched a spot yet, but they’re basically a given at this point (one website has their chances at nearly 98 per cent, which feels about right). Are we going to see the team that struggles late? That can’t control the puck early? That melts down and has scrambles in the last two minutes? That’s more or less been the standard lately, especially against decent teams.

And in the postseason there isn’t going to be a shootout: so what will the overtimes be like? Toronto’s struggled in the shootout, usually carried by whomever’s in net. Will their overtimes be like that: long, mostly in the Leafs end and ending with distraught calls to all three of the Leafs postgame radio shows (what I like to call the Gary from Scarborough hat trick). I don’t know, but that’s what I’m inclined to believe.

Does it sound morbid to say I can’t wait?

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Written by M.

March 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm

One Response

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  1. Reblogged this on bktsrain and commented:
    Looks like playoffs may be a reality. Keep your fingers crossed

    undecided1896

    March 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm


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