The Toronto Maple Leafs have started their season impressing fans in a way critics didn’t think was possible. With a mishmash offense and defense, the Leafs weren’t expected to hold the record they did two weeks into the 2013-14 season. It’s a welcome surprise for fans and an early ride for those hopping on the bandwagon.
After nine games, the Maple Leafs are tied with the Detroit Red Wings at 12 points, with identical 6-3-0 records in the Atlantic Division.
It was one of those moves that won’t ever stop being talked about, whether Jonathan Bernier takes the starting job away from James Reimer or vice versa. It’s worked well so far and their record supports that statement. There aren’t any qualms about how head coach Randy Carlyle has handled the situation. The best goaltender has gotten each start solely based on their play the previous start. It’s exactly what Carlyle said he was going to do when both goaltenders entered camp.
Reimer may have a bit of a hill to climb now that he sustained a bit of an injury as teammate Josh Leivo kneed him in the head accidentally in Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Reimer left the game and Bernier took over.
With Reimer’s history of concussion and neck issues, it might be a good idea to keep him out of game action for a few days while he recuperates. He was suffering from headaches Thursday and they all disappeared after a workout and practice Friday morning.
Reimer knows his own body more than any one else claims to. He says he’s fine and he doesn’t have any soreness or headaches. That being said, concussions are tricky things to treat and symptoms can reappear weeks later. Another slight bump to James Reimer and he may have a full-blown concussion.
If Reimer is kept out for a few games as a precaution, that could leave the door open for Jonathan Bernier to steal the show. Bernier lost the goaltending battle in Los Angeles when he went down with injury and it would be curious to see him win one this time due to Reimer’s past issues with head injures.
LUPUL, BOLLAND & THEIR UNEXPECTED CONTRIBUTIONS
There was doubt at the beginning of the season — and camp for that matter — that forward Joffrey Lupul would be able to start the season at 100%. All of that doubt has been dispelled by Lupul himself who has put up six goals and four assists for ten points in nine games. Two of his goals have been scored on the power play, and he has taken 33 shots on the season. Nothing showed Lupul’s surprise more than laughing at his own goal scored on Thursday against the Hurricanes. It seems Lupul is living in a bit of a fantasy world to begin his season. He has reached the midway point to tying his point total last season.
Dave Bolland has been doing all the right things for the Maple Leafs. Bolland was a draft day trade that would help the Leafs out at centre; a position they are in dire need of help at. While he would help fill holes at the position, the caliber of his talent was not the most wanted; a first-line center was the Leafs’ biggest need.
Bolland has three goals and three assists, with two of those goals being game-winners. He’s contributed a fair amount to the Leafs and has met unrealistic expectations head-on coming off his second Stanley Cup championship. There isn’t much evidence to suggest Bolland can keep up the pace he’s going at, but if he can, that’s icing on the cake for general manager Dave Nonis.
MAPLE LEAFS ARE LIVING ON THE EDGE
In regular 5-on-5 situations, the Maple Leafs have allowed 236 shots against while throwing 173 at their opponent. Their corsi for per 60 minutes is 49.3, while their corsi against per 60 minutes is 64.5. The Leafs are averaging 34.6 shots against per game, and have the puck 10% less than their opponent on average. Allowing 34 shots a game puts a lot of pressure on the goaltenders when they only average 25.4 shots a game against the opponent.
Comparatively, the Detroit Red Wings, who are tied with the Maple Leafs at the top of their division, allow an average of 31.6 shots against, firing 30.7 at their opponent in 5-on-5 situations. That ratio is a lot better to work with making sure the opposing goaltender is sharing the workload yours is.
While the Red Wings have 215 shots for on the season, they have allowed 221 against, which is a more comfortable margin than that of the Maple Leafs. In 5-on-5 tied, and 5-on-5 close games, the Red Wings allow more shots on their own net than the opponent, only by one or two shots. This indicates the Red Wings are pressing in tied and close games leading to shots on goal by means of turnover or line changes.
In close or tied 5-on-5 situations for the Maple Leafs, they let the opponent out-shoot them an average of 5 shots on goal. A difference like this suggests the Leafs sit back and defend in late situations rather than press. It’s not always the case, and the Leafs have come back to tie a few games, but they are still letting an average of almost seven shots more on their goaltender in close and tied games.
In penalty kill situations, the Maple Leafs have allowed a total of 68.5 shots against per 60 minutes. The Red Wings, comparatively, have allowed 52.8 per 60 minutes against. While on the power play, the Maple Leafs dictate play better than their division rival, the Red Wings, allowing 5.3 shots against per 60 minutes and 55.5 for, while the Red Wings allow 7.4 against per 60 minutes, and 51.9 for.
Many things can be taken away from these statistics, but in a larger picture there are only a few very important things:
1 – The Maple Leafs rely on their goaltender to make an average of 34 saves a night, while they only shoot an average of 25 at the opponent. Their dependency on the goaltender shows confidence in his ability whoever it may be that night, but it also shows undisciplined defensive play.
2 - The Maple Leafs have almost perfected their power play, letting fewer shots on their net during changes and icings than the top team in their division. Their power play is rolling, but their penalty kill needs some work to limit the amount of shots let through to Reimer or Bernier.
3 - The amount of shots the Maple Leafs let on their own net in general is too many in comparison with the amount of shots they attempt. There is a huge gap in terms of the shots they allow to the shots they attempt. The Red Wings have only a small gap between allowed and attempted shots on goal, while is why they are such a successful team consistently.
Special thanks to extraskater.com for all the advanced stats.