'Punchless Leafs' or Just Hot Goalies?

Editor's Note: Nirbo takes an interesting look at the received wisdom that the Leafs make their opponents' goalies look like Vezina condidates.

A recent headline from Damien Cox carried a familiar, if tired, refrain: the Leafs have trouble finishing their opportunities. Ten months past the Jason Blake era, and the accusation still persists that the Leafs do not make their shots count.

Now, obviously, the Leafs aren't scoring enough because they are second-last in the league in shots per game at 26.6. But if they still can't score even when they do shoot, they're headed for the basement. A team shooting percentage of 8.65% is below league average, so maybe there is some merit to the claim.

When I think about the Leaf games I've watched this season, though, I'm not immediately convinced. After the jump are the numbers so we can take a look.

The claim can be easily tested by looking at opposing goalies' save percentages in each Leaf game this season and comparing this to performance in other games this season, as well as career numbers. For purposes of this shallow exercise I'm going to set aside issues of statistical significance.

Lundqvist's two games are both counted.

Career average is unweighted.

Game Opponent Goalie Leaf Games   Rest of Season Career
      Shots Goals Sv% Shots Goals Sv%  
07-Oct Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price 24 3 0.875 248 21 0.915 0.912
09-Oct Ottawa Senators
Pascal Leclaire 38 5 0.868 65 5 0.923 0.903
13-Oct Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury 14 4 0.714 132 16 0.879 0.906
15-Oct New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist 38 4 0.895 204 18 0.912 0.918
18-Oct New York Islanders Dwayne Roloson 30 1 0.967 116 11 0.905 0.91
21-Oct New York Rangers Martin Biron 25 1 0.96 25 5 0.8 0.91
23-Oct Philadelphia Flyers
Brian Boucher 14 2 0.857 74 7 0.905 0.9
26-Oct Florida Panthers
Scott Clemmensen 27 3 0.889 6 0 1 0.909
28-Oct Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas 20 0 1 165 3 0.982 0.919
30-Oct New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist 36 0 1 204 18 0.912 0.918
      266 23 0.9135 1239 104 0.9161 0.9105

Through 156 games this year, average save percentage in the NHL is .9095. Leaf opponents' mark is .9135, which represents a difference of about a goal prevented per 10 games. While this probably translates to a win or two over the course of the season, it isn't a large difference.

Comparison to career numbers tells the same story. Leaf opposition goalies average a career mark of .9105, and this drops to .9097 if we only count Lundqvist once. The Leafs have faced what is essentially a league-average mix of goaltenders so far, but they have succeeded at an above-average rate.

The healthy chunk of salt you've been looking for, however, appears when we look at the numbers against the rest of the league. The goalies we've faced have stopped the rest of the league at a tidy .916 rate this year, almost another .1 goal/game.

These differences are pretty small, and we cannot rule out noise as an explanation. Nonetheless, when I look at these numbers, particularly when the sample has been taken directly after back-to-back shutouts against, the conclusion is that our shooting percentage has been unlucky.

The Leafs have faced goaltenders who, as a group, have performed above the league average, and above their own previous standards.

It isn't reasonable to expect to face above-average goaltending all season, and the early results suggest the Leafs are actually slightly ahead of the curve in beating the goaltenders they have faced.

Have we been running into hot goaltenders? Yes we have.

Are the Leafs the reason they've been hot? No.

Luck has a funny way of evening out over a long enough period. If the first month of the season is any indication, the Leafs are due for slightly softer goaltending in the future, whether they can figure out how to hit the net or not.


Looking forward to any comments, criticisms and caveats. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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