Not So Close, After All

Jared Wickerham

Recording time on attack suggests that the Leafs weren't really that close to winning their most recent playoff series.

It is difficult for Toronto Maple Leafs fans to fight the urge to indulge in revisionist history. What if the Leafs had fended off the Boston Bruins for just a few more seconds? The Leafs could have beaten the Rangers! The Leafs could have given the Pens a real run for their money. Heck, a few good bounces into a Cup Final and who knows? Leafs fans need to avoid this kind of thinking if they are ever to get over the "4-1" tragedy.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the shortest path to healing may in fact be to accept that the Bruins were by far the better team throughout the series. Accepting defeat as a delayed eventuality as opposed to a surprise heart-crushing might be a lot easier. Although the Leafs may have received excellent goaltending and been lucky enough to capitalize on a few good scoring chances, cutting it close doesn't mean they deserve to have advanced to the next round.

The main reason I believe this? Attack time. That's 5v5 attack time to be exact. The Bruins simply dominated play in all but one game of the series, and it should make sense that they wound up putting more pucks in the net.

Methodology:

1. Only 5v5 situations have been considered. No power plays, penalty kills, pulled-goalie situations, or even 4v4 time has been considered.

2. A player has to have gained control of the puck before I start clocking their time in the attacking zone. That is, once a team is into the offensive zone and has possession, I don't stop the timer until the defending team regains possession or the puck leaves the zone. Dump-ins from outside the blue line don't count until the attacking team picks up the puck.

3. I have recorded the 5v5 attack time for both teams at each goal and the end of each period. If a penalty overlaps the end of a period, you will see that the attack time doesn't change, since the teams haven't played any more at 5v5. Hopefully, this will reveal something about score effects.

The Results

If you're looking for a quick summary of the data I've gathered, skip to the bottom of these tables. I've included them simply for your information.

Game 1
Bruins Leafs
0v1 0:21 0:01
1v1 2:53 0:45
2v1 3:21 1:12
PER 1 3:21 1:16
3v1 5:44 2:34
4v1 6:30 3:28
PER 2 6:44 3:34
PER 3 9:59 5:03
Game 2

Bruins Leafs
PER 1 3:16 3:47
1v0 3:20 3:54
1v1 3:55 4:27
1v2 5:54 5:23
PER 2 7:59 6:59
1v3 8:05 7:12
2v3 9:28 7:57
3v4 11:18 8:34
PER 3 11:58 8:40
Game 3

Bruins Leafs
1v0 3:28 2:20
PER 1 4:01 3:11
2v0 5:15 3:42
2v1 5:49 3:56
3v1 5:52 4:15
4v1 6:09 4:19
PER 2 6:09 4:19
4v2 6:09 4:19
5v2 8:53 8:17
PER 3 8:56 8:19
Game 4

Bruins Leafs
0v1 0:29 0:11
0v2 3:34 1:29
PER 1 3:38 1:34
1v2 3:38 1:34
2v2 5:42 5:13
3v2 6:12 5:52
3v3 6:15 6:17
PER 3 8:08 9:26
PER 4 10:19 12:16
Game 5

Bruins Leafs
PER 1 3:30 3:10
0v1 5:46 4:44
PER 2 7:12 5:36
0v2 7:25 5:42
1v2 11:39 6:02
PER 3 13:59 7:13
Game 6

Bruins Leafs
PER 1 3:25 1:33
PER 2 7:27 6:26
0v1 7:30 6:57
0v2 8:48 8:27
1v2 11:04 9:24
PER 3 11:04 9:24
Game 7

Bruins Leafs
1v0 0:59 0:05
1v1 1:33 0:18
PER 1 3:39 2:03
1v2 4:21 2:33
PER 2 6:26 3:59
1v3 6:46 4:16
1v4 8:05 4:27
2v4 9:15 5:29
3v4 11:26 6:08
4v4 11:26 6:08
PER 3 11:32 6:10
PER 4 13:04 6:58

Observations:

  • The Bruins had more 5v5 attack time in all games save for Game 4, a Bruins win. Score effects count for something, but the Leafs established more time in the B's zone even through OT.
  • Total 5v5 Attack Time for the series for Boston is 78.62 minutes, while the Leafs only had 57.88 minutes. That's a substantial difference. Put another way, attacking possession time is 57.6% for the Bruins while the Leafs had 42.4%.
  • If we look only at 5v5 Close Attack Time (that is, +/- 1 goal) we wind up with 58.6 minutes for the Bruins and 47.2 for the Leafs. In terms of percentage that's 55.4% for the Bruins and 44.6% for the Leafs.

So?

The outcome of this series is a case-in-point example of how within small sample sizes, anything can happen. Heck, the Leafs were clearly the inferior team, and came within tragic seconds of winning anyway. "Hockey's a crazy game," my dad always says.

As Leafs fans, we have to simply enjoy the ride and appreciate that we got a few extra games out of this season. This little study just adds more evidence to the argument that the Leafs are unlikely to deserve to be in the playoffs again next season, and that we need to steel ourselves for another scramble to make the playoffs 2013-14. You never know, maybe the Leafs get the bounces they need next year.
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