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Carey Price has been excellent and the Leafs are still winning

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Stop getting goalied with this one neat trick.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens - Game Three Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Playoffs are all about goaltending. That’s almost a truism, but there are ways to cope with really good goaltending — the most obvious is to counter with a hot goalie of your own. Jack Campbell has been good for the Leafs, but honestly, he’s not been at the level of Carey Price.

Price performed right about league average this regular season in all-situations. His Goals Saved Above Expected ranges from -1.5 on Moneypuck to a much less kind -8.11 on Evolving Hockey. At five-on-five, Price was .71 Goals saved above expected, so nearly on the league average expected value, on Evolving Hockey, and 3.8 goals over expected on Moneypuck. On a season, that difference is an argument about the shade of meh his play was.

The playoffs have been a very different story, and that’s to be expected. Mike Smith had a great regular season, was arguably as good as Connor Hellebuyck, just in fewer minutes, and he did not bring that same game to the first-round sweep where Hellebuyck was the single biggest factor in the outcome.

The hard reality of playoff hockey is that the results a goalie gets in a series of four to seven games should never be expected to be anything but somewhere on the range of that goalie’s normal results. This is why very good goalies with careers as top starters tend to have narrower distributions of results than backups who on any given day can outperform them, but won’t on a career. You never know what you’re going to get, no matter how many myths get told around internet campfires about playoff clutch performances.

The Leafs are getting very good Carey Price. And they are winning anyway.

Jack Campbell is helping, to be sure. He’s ninth in Goals Saved Above Expected per 60 minutes using Moneypuck’s model. The outlandishly good first game from Spencer Knight is first at 2.3. Hellebuyck is 1.5, Price is 1.4, Vasilevskiy is 1.1, the astonishing Craig Anderson has 1.0 in two games, Marc-Andre Fleury is at .9, Tuukka Rask is at .8, Ilya Sorokin is at .6 and then Campbell sits at .5.

This has been Campbell’s overall season as well — very good, better than average, but outside the rarefied air of the very top goalies once those first few superhot games receded into the past.

The one neat trick that can prevent being goalied by Carey Price is the Leafs top line, who lead Moneypuck’s list of offensive lines by Expected Goals For per 60 minutes. They are just ahead of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak, and we all know just how deadly they are. Ours is better this year so far.

Sticking with Moneypuck, and moving to the team ranking in the playoffs, Toronto is second only to Colorado in Expected Goals % at 59.5 to their 61.8. Montréal, who were supposed to be the possession powerhouse, are at 40.5.

In their three playoff games so far, the Leafs have been underperforming expected goals, or put another way, have a low shooting percentage. Their five-on-five performances have looked like this:

  • Game 1 - 1.39 expected vs 1 actual
  • Game 2 - 2.79 expected vs 2 actual
  • Game 3 - 2.53 expected vs 2 actual

Their power play shooting has been a bit below expected as well. Toronto has not been on a shooting heater this season, but they have performed at the expected amount at five-on-five. The underlying performance is there in the offensive zone in this series, and in dominating control of the puck.

This series is nothing like the Columbus series last summer in the bubble. In those games, the Leafs did not perform well offensively, shot from very poor locations, and almost never scored.

This is not that:

The one neat trick to avoid being goalied is the red blob of death. Luckily the Leafs are really good at creating that.