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Odds and Ends: Looking at Some Leaf Numbers

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I went digging. Here are some things I found.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Big nerd that I am, sometimes I like to fish around the various stat databases and learn stuff about the Leafs. Here are some things I found.

Point Blank

  • The Leafs have the shortest average shot distance in the NHL this season, at 30.6 ft. from the net. Only one team has had a season shooting closer than that in the last decade (the New York Rangers, who have done it three times.) Partly this is because the Leafs have certain players who shoot very close (Matthews and Hyman especially), and partly it’s that three of their top four defencemen don’t shoot very much (the exception is Morgan Rielly.) As a rule, defence shots are lower-percentage shots, so if this means the forwards are getting more shots, this is probably a good thing.

Have a look at the visualization compared to the Sabres, who have a much greater average shot distance.

Putting aside that the Leafs get many more shots in general, I know who I’d rather be.

Who Gets Hit?

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
Not Leo!
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve probably heard hit counts quoted on broadcasts and elsewhere, and you likely know that Matt Martin and Leo Komarov bash people. But Corsica also gives us individual hits against per 60 minutes at 5v5, which is interesting. I’m using road hits only, to limit home scorer bias; pardon the super clunky stat name.

  • The Leafs who got hit the most, on a road rate basis, since the start of last season: Nikita Soshnikov (9.84 individual road hits against per 60), Connor Carrick (8.44 iRHA/60), Matt Martin (8.17) and Nazem Kadri (8.13).
  • The Leafs who got hit the least: Leo Komarov (2.64), Tyler Bozak (2.68), and Connor Brown (3.31.)
  • This is interesting to contemplate. Leo Komarov dishes out a huge amount of punishment, but takes very little back, possibly because he doesn’t have the puck very much. At the same time, that only goes so far; Matthews and Nylander take fewer than four hits a road game, which is lower than average. Still, I think Kadri’s presence near the top of the list is partly a function of him being the primary puck carrier for his line, rather than Brown or Komarov. That and he’s kind of a shit disturber.
  • JVR gets hit the most on the Bozak line, but really, none of them are on the receiving end of that much physical punishment compared to other Leaf forwards. Infer what you will from that.
  • Poor Sosh :(
  • If you’re wondering what counts as a lot, the league median (min. 500 minutes) is 4.68. And the player on that list who gets hit the very least, in the whole NHL? Phil Kessel.

Takeaways

Our own Kevin Papetti has written about this before, so I won’t spend too much time on it, but the Leafs have had two of the top takeaway forwards in the NHL since the start of last year.

  • Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are 10th and 13th in 5v5 road takeaways per 60 (min. 500 minutes.) This lines up pretty nicely with what we’ve seen of them; they’re both very good at stealing the puck. Kadri (32nd) and Nylander (39th) both also show well at this, and again, since these are road takeaways, it’s not just home cooking making our boys look good.
  • The lowest Leaf F in this stat? Connor Brown. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • It has to be said that the league ranks in this stat go 1, 2, and then a huge gap before everyone else. #1 is Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, and #2 is Ottawa’s Mark Stone. Yes, the Sens do have a genuinely elite forward. It’s okay. We can still laugh at their defence depth.

Shot Blocking

NHL: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Everybody loves shot blocking, right?

  • Mitch Marner (17th) and Auston Matthews (19th) are in the top 20 Fs for blocked shots per 60 at 5v5 (again, using road numbers). I am definitely not at all worried about them getting injured, and blocking shots is a thing that they should do a lot. Yes. Definitely.
  • Oddly, while other Leaf Fs block shots, pretty much all of them other than Nikita Soshnikov (sigh) and Eric Fehr block them at notably lower rates than Auston and Mitch. I wonder a little bit if this is from kids trying to prove themselves and show they’re defensively responsible.
  • The forward with the third-lowest blocked shots rate in the NHL is Phil Kessel. I am beginning to see how he stays so healthy.

Expected Goals

I know, you’re tired of real time stats. Let’s get nerdier.

  • William Nylander leads the NHL in individual expected goals/60 this season and it isn’t especially close (min. 50 minutes, at 5v5.) Zach Hyman is 11th. Auston Matthews is hilariously somehow lagging his linemates, at 22nd in the league. What a bum.
  • As you’d expect, that line is the best in the NHL in xGF60, and is fourth in xGF%, behind two variations on the Connor McDavid line and some weird dudes in Vancouver who I’m going to go ahead and write off. Early samples here, but if this is reflective, we have a line that’s in competition for the best line in the NHL. Maybe you already knew that, but it’s fun.
  • Both of the Leafs’ top four pairings rate quite respectably in xGF% (Gardiner and Zaitsev are verging on being outshot, but they cut down on shot quality against surprisingly well and operate as a top-third pairing in the NHL.) I know we’re all down on the defence right now, but again, if this is reflective, we’re doing quite well.
  • The worst pairing in the NHL by xGF% is Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci lol

Odds and Ends

  • Since the beginning of 2008, exactly one team has managed to get scored on twice while on 5-on-3s. It’s the Leafs. Sigh.
  • The Leafs were 25th in “wins while outshooting the opponent” last year, and tied for 1st in wins while being outshot.
  • Zach Hyman tied for seventh in the NHL in shorthanded shots last year, with 18. That was the second most for any Leaf in the past twenty years...and you might have guessed, but first was Michael Grabner in 2015-16 (23.)
  • The team that got the most home powerplay opportunities last season was Winnipeg. I assume the Habs fans have vowed to boo even more loudly every time one of their players fall over this season in order to catch up.

I hope you enjoyed these random numbers. Now please, Leafs, put up numbers in the win column.