You know what would be really, really nice? If the Leafs could finish this series earlier than a game seven. Don’t we fans deserve this? If “learning how not to lose” is a thing, the Leafs should have reached the level cap in that particular skill. So it would be just swell if they could have some killer instinct now. Beat the Lightning tomorrow, go back home with a chance to clinch the series at home. And this time, NOT blow a 3-1 series lead.

It will be easier said than done, however. The series so far has been pretty close.

Here are some metrics through the first three games:

  • CF%: Tampa is controlling 55% of the shot attempts at 5v5. It’s basically tied at 50% in all situations.
  • xGF%: Tampa has a very slight 51% edge in expected goal share at 5v5, with Toronto controlling a more dominant 59% in all situations thanks to their special teams.
  • Toronto has seven players with a positive xGF%: Spezza, Holl, Kampf, Kerfoot, Brodie, Matthews, and Giordano.
  • Their players who have been getting killed at even strength in terms of xGF% includes Simmonds (29%), Liljegren (35%), Lyubushkin (39%), John Tavares (40%), and Blackwell (41%)./

If there are three important elements I’ve noticed through three games...

1) Their special teams has been giving them an overall edge in controlling play, which is probably why Cooper has lamented about how many penalties his team is taking. In terms of goals scored, Tampa’s overall numbers look okay thanks to the three powerplay goals they scored in game two. But both teams are equal in terms of goals scored during a man advantage. Tampa has four PP goals through three games, while Toronto has two PP goals and two short handed goals. What’s helped Toronto is sequencing, as they’ve spread them out across

2) The other big thing has been Campbell playing better than Vasilevskiy in two of three games. This is less about Campbell being great (although he was in the last game) than Vasilevskiy being less good. Campbell has been about even in terms of saving goals above expected. The problem for Tampa has been Vasilevskiy, who had a .927 and .937 sv% during their last two Cup runs. So far this year, he’s sitting at .890 and has allowed 2.50 goals below expected.

[Casually remembers that David Kampf has two goals this series]

3) You can argue that the Leafs have just been making it harder on Vasilevskiy than Tampa has on Campbell overall through three games. The Leafs have a pretty big overall edge in total xGF through the series: 11.76 for Toronto, and 8.29 for Tampa in all situations. By each game, Toronto has had the lead in both their wins. So if the goaltending was equal, the Leafs would still be winning the series. What helps is that this year they are not only getting big contributions from Matthews (2 goals and 3 assists) and Marner (2 goals and 4 assists), but they’re getting some secondary scoring as well. They didn’t really get much from either last year.

Anyways, keep it up Leafs. Go for the throat!

Conn Smythe watch: No clear leader after three games | by elseldo

Maple Leafs keep Alex Kerfoot on the top line for Game 4 as Jack Campbell chats up his teammates on the ice to keep the good vibes going | by The Leafs Nation

Toronto Marlies GM Ryan Hardy on Leafs prospect Curtis Douglas (transcript) | by Maple Leaf Hot Stove

Maple Leafs’ Pierre Engvall taking next step with offence, physical play | by The Athletic

Some fun with small sample stats so far these playoffs...

Scheifele did not ask for trade as Jets move into uncertain off-season: 32 Thoughts (video) | by Sportsnet

Penguins’ Jarry skates for first time since injury | by TSN

Some playoff updates for yesterday’s games...

Capitals vs. Panthers Game Three Recap: Caps Return Favor To Florida and Win in Dominate Fashion | by Japer’s Rink

Things aren’t going so well for Florida through three games and it’s difficult to pinpoint why...

Recap: Colorado on track to sweep the Predators after 7-3 victory in Nashville | by Mile High Hockey

Nashville Predators 3, Colorado Avalanche 7: Errors cost struggling Preds another game | by On The Forecheck

The Avalanche may have won but their fans probably had some PTSD flashbacks from other recent playoff runs while dealing with numerous goalie injuries...

Pens/Rangers Game 3 Recap: Pittsburgh avoids collapse, pulls out late win | Pensburgh

Rangers vs Penguins: Blueshirts Make Comeback But Fall Short in Pittsburgh | Blue Shirt Banter

If Pittsburgh is still looking for a goalie while Jarry and DeSmith are out with injuries, I know someone who is quite capable at shutting shit down...

Flames drop Game 3 to the Stars in a battle in Dallas | by Matchsticks and Gasoline