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Same Same But Different

The Leafs goaltending is the main reason they're winning hockey games (so far).

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

We're 4 games into the nascent 2013-14 NHL season, and the Leafs are a fortunate 3-1 after seeing their losing streak come to a not so abrupt halt vs. Mr. Composure (aka Patrick Roy) and the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

So far I would suggest the main thread of things last year appears to be repeating itself early... just with a different success story between the pipes.

So far the Leafs goalies have posted a combined .928 SV%, and that includes the game where James Reimer got yanked after allowing 4 goals on 21 shots against Ottawa. This means the opposition is shooting a paltry 7.2% against the Leafs - and that the Leafs have done pretty dang well overall... BUT... and yes you knew there was a but coming... there's some danger lurking in the weeds here.

See the Leafs even strength save percentage is actually only .933... which ranks them smack dab in the middle of the NHL currently - 15th overall. The scary thing is they're playing with fire when a man down. The Leafs currently rank 2nd in the NHL in 4v5 TOI at 27:15, only Philadelphia has more short handed ice time. Their goalies have faced 22 shots against while short handed during that time span, and have only allowed 1 goal. That's a .955 SV% while down a man. That high a Short Handed SV% isn't REMOTELY sustainable. The only teams to exceed a .917 SV% in the last 6 years of NHL hockey over a full season were Ottawa last year (in the shortened 48 game season) at .928, and somehow Minnesota in 2008-09 insanely produced a .935 SV% while at 4 on 5.

Realistically middle of the pack SH SV% numbers end up around .870. Even if the Leafs end up one of the top teams in the NHL in this regard they're likely going to slide and that means goals will start going in while they're short handed. Average NHL goaltending in this regard would see them currently sitting at 3 goals against while down a man rather than 1, and they likely aren't looking at a 3-1 record.

Before people launch into a defense of Jonathan Bernier's career numbers - his SV% at 4v5 in his career is .886, and has tracked as follows over each season he's played over 50 minutes at 4v5: 2010-11 (.880), 2011-12 (.925), 2012-13 (.868). Obviously there is no reason to assume he maintains a .941 SV% any more than we should assume James Reimer maintains his perfect 1.000 SV%.