December 31 2016 08:42AM
Over the past few years, Nazem Kadri has been one of the best players in the NHL at drawing penalties. This was widely talked about among hockey's analytics community for a while, but last year the idea really seemed to break through, as it became a topic of conversation in far more mainstream sources, including TSN and Sportsnet's national broadcasts. It seemed like Kadri was finally getting credit for an under-rated skill that he was very good at.
But this year that ability has largely dried up. Many nights it's seemed like opposition players are able to get away with murder against Kadri without the Leafs being awarded a powerplay. So what's happened? And how steep has the drop-off been, really?
December 27 2016 09:23AM
Over a large sample size, Corsi is one of the best measurements we have at the moment for team-level skill. While it's far from perfect, once you get 20 or 30 games into the season it does a pretty good job of predicting future goal scoring, and it's a pretty stable stat, less affected by randomness than most others. At the moment the Leafs are 12th in the NHL in score-adjusted Corsi with 52%. In fact, they're just .1% out of the top 10, so the Leafs are playing like a top 10 team in terms of shot attempts this season. That suggests the Leafs have been playing well at even strength this season.
However, their results have fluctuated quite a bit over the first three months of the season. Let's take a look at five-game rolling average of Corsi (this chart is not score-adjusted):
November 30 2016 02:49AM
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SPORTS
Auston Matthews has gotten off to a pretty fast start to his NHL career. His 9 goals have him tied for the team lead on the Leafs with Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk, while his 17 points are just one off the team lead. Even more impressive is his shot volume. Matthews has taken 77 shots through 21 games, which is the 6th most in the entire league. And Matthews is doing it in a smaller number of minutes than other top players, as he's the only one in the top 15 in shots who's getting fewer than 18 minutes a night.
This got me wondering how Matthews compares to some of the other best young players in recent years. So I grabbed a list of the top shooters from the past decade who were 20 years old or younger.
November 28 2016 05:25PM
A few weeks ago when Frederik Andersen was really struggling I wrote an article looking at whether his struggles were out of the norm relative to the rest of his career and found that they weren't. Andersen's first five games with the Leafs did not have good results, but it was just the kind of rough patch that goalies will have from time-to-time, and I said that he'd likely bounce back. In the 11 games that Andersen's played since then his SV% is .931. As has been typical of his career, after a period with bad results, Andersen followed up by playing very well.
The other Leafs goalie, Jhonas Enroth, has undergone a similar struggle. He's made five appearances this season, posting a SV% of just .886. Should we expect him to bounce back too, or should we be worried that he's hit a new career low?
November 27 2016 08:12AM
The Toronto Maple Leafs powerplay was confounding in Mike Babcock's first season as head coach of the team. They were 3rd in the NHL in shot attempt rate at 5v4, at 103.6 attempts per 60 minutes. Even more impressive, they were 1st in scoring chance rate, at 28.7 scoring chances per 60 minutes, a good ways ahead of 2nd place San Jose, who fired 26.3 SCF/60. And yet, despite all those opportunities, the Leafs struggled to score powerplay goals. They finished 29th in the NHL in powerplay success rate and were 3rd last in S%.
This year the story is markedly different. The team has fallen to 23rd in the league in shot attempts, generating 84.5 CF/60, an 18% decrease in shot volume. Scoring chances paint a slightly rosier picture. The Leafs SC/60 at 5v4 is 11th in the league, with 24.3 SC/60 representing a drop of 15%. But the Leafs are much more successful on the powerplay this year, with a 9th ranked powerplay that's scoring on nearly 2% more of its shots.
What explains the difference between the Leafs powerplay in these two seasons?