The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a game last night to the Vancouver Canucks. It was the Canucks’ first game since their whole team (pretty much) had COVID. It was seen as an easy peasy game. There were rumours (always denied by the team and players) that they were so devastated by COVID-19, with some people needing to be on IV or being winded walking up stairs.
The betting odds were overwhelming in favour of the Leafs:
according to historical betting market data, the Vancouver Canucks were the least likely home team to win in a decade-plus of data (23% implied win probability). and they actually did it, under pretty wild circumstances pic.twitter.com/QIExi74eYg— Cole Anderson (@ice_cole_data) April 19, 2021
This, of course, was the very first embarrassing game the Leafs have lost all year.
Leafs Nation, as we are wont to do, are in a crisis as a result. For about the umpteenth time this year. This is not to say that we shouldn’t take this latest result in stride or have cause for concern. However, I just want to ask why this particular game, on its own, is very upsetting?
Because for me, this loss literally changes nothing. Here’s why.
Reason #1: All those links above
This is one embarrassing loss in a season full of them. Ho hum. Seen it before. I wouldn’t even call it the most embarrassing this year — it might not even crack my top 3.
Reason #2: Leafs got goalied, bad lucked
The Leafs had 73% of expected goal share last night — it was 4.69 to 1.73 in all situations. They had 65% of shot attempts. They had 21 high danger chances to Vancouver’s 5. It was one of the more dominating games they’ve played... except on the scoreboard.
Why? There’s the powerplay that is not scoring, a recent but extended problem that continues to plague them. There’s also Holtby making some ridiculous saves. There’s the two posts/crossbars they hit. There’s the goal that was reviewed and called no goal, even though it might have been a goal, because it wasn’t clear that it was a goal after review. In short, it was a game where they dominated but literally nothing else went right for them.
Reason #3: Who cares about the regular season?
The regular season is important for one reason: to make the playoffs. We don’t care how good the Leafs do in the standings otherwise. Winning the division would be nice, but it won’t matter if they can’t make a run and win some rounds for once.
So it’s worrying that they keep getting goalied, and seemingly lost their ability to score on the powerplay, and have a tendency to not just lose some games but lose them in spectacularly embarrasing fashion. Those are all things that make me question if they can actually win a playoff round.
But all of those things already had me concerned before last night. They’ve lost games badly where they blew big leads or got horribly outplayed by a team they should dominate. A game they got goalied and bad-lucked but otherwise dominated? Yawn. If anything that’s an improvement for their usual tendencies.
Reason #4: The rest of the division ain’t so rosy either
Right now, the North division is full of teams that are deeply flawed. One of the co-favourites to win the division going into this year, Montreal, is in an even bigger crisis than the Leafs are right now. They’re losing a lot, they’re without arguably their most important player, Price has been bad and hurt, they’ve already fired their coach, and fans are turning on them in a big way:
#Habs fans are in a bad way right now, and for good reason.— Habs Chronicle (@HabsChronicle) April 18, 2021
We've devoted time, energy and money to this team, and what are they giving us back in return?
They're playing without an ounce of emotion, energy or interest.
They look like they don't care anymore. There's no pride.
The Leafs, meanwhile, are chugging away at the top of the division still. At this point, we know the Leafs are making the playoffs. There’s a good chance they win the division, and if they don’t they’ll finish 2nd or 3rd.
Some perspective:#Leafs have lost two (2) games in regulation since March 19.— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 19, 2021
So they've earned 21 of a possible 28 points in the last month, while tied for second-best points % in the NHL.
This isn't their best stretch of the season, but the sky isn't exactly falling either.
The main issue is that when the Leafs lose, they lose dramatically. The problem is we can see the problems they’ve had this year and wonder if the worst of them will be exposed in the playoffs. Calgary was expected to be one of the teams to compete in the division, and they’ve been such a tire fire that they’ve also fired a coach and are well out of the playoffs.
Winnipeg and Edmonton are doing relatively well, considering the other two, but it’s not like they don’t have problems either. Edmonton still can’t get much scoring outside of their two superstars and are relying on Mike Smith to carry them the rest of the way. Winnipeg has a superstar goalie, a lot of offensive punch and a powerplay that Leafs’ fans are envious of, but they have so many holes on defense and some questionable coaching that we are very much NOT envious of.
Or, put another way, the Leafs have flaws but are still on top of the division. And I can’t really say with certainty that any other team will catch them. It could happen, I suppose, but There are eleven games left in the season (at most), with the Leafs commanding a four point lead and a bunch more games left against Vancouver.
Reason #5: Consider the cap implications of the Amazon documentary
Remember the news that this season would make up an Amazon documentary about the Leafs? They would follow the team, show some stuff in the background, yada yada we know the drill for these sorts of things.
You might consider all of those embarrassing losses this year, combined with that documentary, and groan. But you are not seeing the big picture. Consider this: other NHL fans love to see the Leafs fail. They revel in our suffering, as we do theirs. Imagine how many more people are going to watch this documentary to see these embarrassing losses covered in more depth.
Imagine all the revenue that will generate for the Leafs and the league. Imagine that these losses are part of a galaxy brain plan made up by Dubas and Pridham to increase the salary cap using other fans’ schadenfreude.
Conclusions: Bring on the playoffs already
I said this in a recent FTB, but it holds true now. I don’t think we can learn anything new about the Leafs this season. We know who they are, and last night didn’t change anything. All that can happen is the Leafs lose more players to injury.
[Sacrifices a chicken to the Hockey gods to protect Zach Hyman’s knee]
Or they lose more games in embarrassing fashion that drive us even more crazy. Basically, nothing good can really happen. Give us enough time to hopefully have more of their injured or banged up players to return and heal up. Otherwise... please just let the playoffs come and the Leafs win some freaking rounds.
So yeah, let’s be mad, annoyed, upset, befuddled, confused, and just plain ol’ frustrated at last night’s game. We’ll add it to the pile that’s been building up our whole lives as Leafs fans. It will make it all the sweeter if the Leafs actually do make a deep run this year.
Did last night’s loss to the Canucks change your opinion on the Leafs’ playoff chances?
|Yes - I have greater doubt about them||98|
|No - Just more of the same old crap||243|
|I just want to be mad at this so I get distracted by this shitty province’s shitty COVID situation and I just want a god damned vaccine||111|