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?
November 26 2016 07:47PM
Calgary Flames fans were elated when Matthew Tkachuk fell to the team at number six overall in June's NHL Draft, and for good reason. Tkachuk was coming off a banner season with the OHL's London Knights, filled an organizational need for the Flames, and in his on-ice personality, brought the team something they didn't have. I thought Tkachuk had a chance to make Calgary's roster out of training camp, but by no means did I see him making the type of impact he has to this point.
November 26 2016 01:47PM
Earlier this week I wrote a piece about improvements that can be made at the margins of a hockey team. The basic premise was that fourth lines and third pairs move the needle much more than most think and based on my model, a switch from Ben Smith, Roman Polak, and Matt Hunwick to Peter Holland, Martin Marincin, and Frank Corrado is the difference between 89 and 93 points, at least by my model.
Today, David Johnson aka @hockeyanalysis on Twitter offered a different perspective to the piece, citing the Leafs defensive issues as the team's biggest problem and showing that removing the three players I pointed out as issues would be a further detriment to the team's defensive woes. That is 100 percent an argument I can get behind, after all, the role of those three is to play defence so they should be better at it.
Watch The Game Podcast
November 26 2016 08:17AM
Sam, Cam and Jeff record a special edition of the podcast where they breakdown each team and what they should be thankful for this holiday season. All thirty teams and even a little bit of Vegas Golden Knights talk as well. Some teams are just a little more thankful than others.
November 25 2016 11:00AM
Though the "sophomore slump" plagues many second-year players in the NHL, the opposite can be said for Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
The 20-year-old had an impressive rookie debut last season, posting 15 goals and 38 points in 72 games. This time around, he looks even stronger. In 21 games played this season, Ehlers has 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) and is proving to be one of the Jets' top forwards this season.